Citation: Steve J. "The Old Man in the Shoe: An Experience with Salvia Divinorum (Salvia) (exp64555)". Erowid.org. Apr 22, 2010. erowid.org/exp/64555
Prior to this experience I had done quite a bit of reading about the potential effects of salvia, including many firsthand accounts. I had some skepticism that I would encounter the intense effects described in these stories and thought my own experience might be fairly low-grade. I was wrong.
This experience occurred on a Friday night, alone in my apartment, about 10:30 PM. I was in a calm and reflective mood and in what I felt was a good frame of mind for my first encounter with salvia. Since I had no idea what to expect, I prepared my apartment by clearing pathways throughout the place in case I began to move recklessly, I pushed furniture away from the center of the room leaving no obstructions anywhere. I dimmed all the lights, poured myself some iced tea, laid a pen and paper on the table and put on the first disc of Keith Jarrett’s solo piano concert in Bremen (one of my favorite pieces of music) and prepared the leaf in a standard wooden cannabis pipe. I sat down at my kitchen table which was only a few paces from the recliner I was prepared to sit in once I had smoked. The recliner faced the stereo and speakers which sat in a cabinet (this will come into play later).
The amount in the pipe made me think I would probably have to take two hits to consume it, so that was my plan. I took a couple of deep breaths and exhaled the air from my lungs, then used a disposable lighter to fire up the bowl. The smoke was immediately harsher than pot and of a different character and as it went to my head, I thought one hit will likely do this and slid the integrated top of the pipe closed. It was sort of difficult to hold in but I had read you should hold it for 30 seconds, so I was sort of counting the seconds and rose up from the chair planning to sit in the recliner. At about 20 seconds I simply released it and essentially at the same time broke from any sense of the reality I was in when I took the hit.
I was immediately and completely enveloped in an enormous physical struggle with a force that it took me a few seconds to comprehend. It felt as though I was being rolled up against my will inside something comparable to a gigantic sardine tin lid that was being manipulated by this unrecognized force in a physical space that was both within and without my apartment, i.e., I was still aware that I was in the apartment but also felt as if I was outside in a different location.
I became aware that there were other entities in this with me and within seconds conceptualized that rather than a sardine can lid, I was being rolled up in a huge shoe sole that was disconnected from the top of the shoe (I could see in my peripheral vision the “hobnails” that had held the shoe to the sole) and that the roller was the “Old Man Who Lived in a Shoe” from the old fairy tale (I know the fairy tale was an old woman, but this was a guy). He was also peripheral in my sight but I sensed he was dressed sort of like Uncle Sam without the actual American flag adornments. Also with me inside this rolling up were apparently the proverbial kids who lived in the shoe, but they were not clearly recognized as such – this was more of an awareness than a direct physical observation that there were actual children there with me, but their presence was undeniable. The shoe sole was not just pliable leather but was made of a very hard steel-like material that was obviously taking godlike strength to twist and bend in this relentless way.
The force was so overpowering that I felt as if I had to fight with all the strength I could summon to resist being destroyed by this action. The children in the shoe who seemed to be laughing at first became terrified and essentially disappeared behind me in this rolling up process. I turned away from the force and tried to reach my apartment door (again only a few paces away from where I was) but I was unable to move in that direction easily. I continued to be aware that I was both in the apartment but also that another reality and physical space was existing inside the apartment as well. I crumpled to my knees as the force increased and this is where I felt I had the most intense breakthrough.
Any reality I had before was, in that moment, replaced by the sheer and terrifying certainty that this was not a dream or drug like experience (I believe I was vague at this time as to just what had happened to create this) but that I had somehow opened a hole in my known reality that allowed a true reality to reveal itself that showed me how everybody ended up – that this old man in the shoe was the supreme being who had ultimate control and this is what he did: if you opened the hole, he destroyed everyone by rolling them up and then . . . what, I didn’t know. But I was absolutely certain in that moment that something had happened that was going to destroy me and I was helpless to stop it.
As the rolling progressed, it felt to me as if the very fabric of reality itself was being rolled up behind me and was swallowing me up whole. It occurred to me later that it was kind of like in the old cartoons where everything gets sucked into a hole in the ground – the earth, the trees, the buildings, everything – and then goes “pop” and it all disappears into the hole, but in the midst of it, there was no sense of anything cartoonish.
I couldn’t really think about specific loved ones or anything else (no flashing of my life before my eyes that we all hear about) – I could only attempt to deal with the awful reality of what force I had apparently somehow allowed to enter and subvert my reality and physical space. I can honestly say that in the few moments immediately during this realization that I have never felt such sheer focused panic in my life. I don’t panic as a rule, but I have been panicked before when I thought my 4 year old son had wandered away and disappeared once (turns out his mother had him – long story) but this was the panic that comes with a knowledge that your entire concept of reality is different from what you thought it was and that is a panic you cannot describe unless you have experienced it, period. Of course, all this happened in a very short period of seconds/minutes (?) and was more a flash of acknowledgement than a thoughtful process of pondering it out.
During the entire time, I was keenly aware of the piano. It became a kind of ostinato that continued repeating a very short segment and I was wondering where this music was coming from and how strange it seemed that it was playing while this was all occurring, I did not recognize it as Keith Jarrett or that I was playing a CD.
Had this continued on for any period of time, there is no telling where I might have ended up, but I regained some sense of what had happened and tried to convince myself that I was, indeed, in my apartment and that all the other physical aspects around me were normal and comforting, so that the “other” terrifying reality I was feeling so intensely could not be real. The final return to reality occurred when I thought that, as the shoe sole was compacting me and there became less room to maneuver, there was really nowhere else to go and I acknowledged that therefore this couldn’t be really happening after all. At that moment, the old man in the shoe essentially disappeared. However, I still felt the huge physical force in my entire body, kind of twisting me around as I lay down on the floor at the foot of the recliner and physically contorting me, I have no idea whether I was actually contorting myself or just lying still.
I lay flat and closed my eyes and was hearing voices outside my apartment door from several people but have no idea if they were real or not. I rose up and moved around the room, finally sitting in the recliner for a moment and looked at the clock. About 10 or 12 minutes had passed and I was beginning to feel a lessening of the physical force, but was aware that I was still being twisted in an unusual direction in my seat. I got up and went into the bedroom and lay down there for perhaps 15 minutes, but by this time the entire experience was melting away and I was being left with an amazed sense of wonder that such a tiny amount of vegetable matter had thrust me into such an incredible place.
I lay there for a short while, then got up and went back into the living room where I immediately noticed that the stereo/TV cabinet had been pushed back about two feet at a 45 degree angle from where it was before the experience. This confirmed for me that I had been locked in a fierce physical battle with an entity right there in my living room only about 30 minutes before, but was the only sign of a physical struggle. I only wish that I had a video of what it might have looked like during that time.
I began thinking that things were only as scary as they seemed because I resisted the force being applied to me and that trying this again, I would have to very clearly relax more as the effect takes hold (assuming I can) and probably should be sitting as I smoked the salvia, since perhaps the upright posture at the onset had something to do with the forces being applied. Since this was my first time and I was slightly skeptical of the intensity I would feel, with what I thought was such a small dose, I was completely knocked out of my socks by the magnitude of the experience as it began to occur. As I write this the next morning, I remain pretty shocked by what happened on such a small dose.
I am not normally someone who has lots of fears of a physical nature but it is interesting that I have joked with friends that my greatest fear in life is to be eaten up by an animal and that I confront this fear all the time by camping in the wilderness alone. Perhaps this vision was somehow related to that subconscious fear being propelled into the conscious, but my guess is that the vision is somehow more related to the fact that I am at a place in my life right now in which vast contradictory forces are at work on me and that the old man in the shoe was a manifestation of the combination of those forces overwhelming me.
I admit it has been at least 15 years and probably more since I took acid and at the age of 52, maybe I am just not set up properly for this kind of trip anymore. I have taken many hallucinogens in my life including LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, etc. and smoked pot for 35 years, but have never experienced such a break with reality, particularly such an intense visual and physical break over which I felt I had absolutely no control. The brutish physical force that I felt was being applied to me as the shoe sole continued to be forced over and around me was unlike any I have experienced in any setting or physical contest, awake or dreaming.
I will definitely do this again, probably without music and even less light, to create a very soothing and placid atmosphere. I may want to use a sitter but haven’t decided yet.
My hat is off to the power of salvia and I have enormous respect for what it appears to be capable of inducing. I am not at all certain that I would want to consume more than I did in one sitting, but experience may temper that. I am anxious to see if a more meditative state could be achieved and undoubtedly knowing myself the way I do, the frightening aspect of last night’s trip will lessen in my memory and I will be returning to salvia soon to see what else it holds in store for me.
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