Citation: Poet SB. "Creation of Language: An Experience with Salvia divinorum (20x extract) (exp71314)". Erowid.org. May 26, 2020. erowid.org/exp/71314
As a short drug-related history, I had, at this point in my life, been smoking marijuana regularly for 8 or 9 years, and had, of course, a typical 22-year-old’s accumulated experience with alcohol. I had also used LSD and psilocybe mushrooms quite frequently throughout my teenage years, but had quit, for the most part, by the age of 17, after too many anxious trips and panic attacks (I am a firm believer that intelligent, artistic and mystically-inclined people are far more likely to experience so-called “bad trips” at times, becaue their brains are more willing to explore and deconstruct the scarier stuff of reality and consciousness).
To provide a little more background for this experience, I feel that I must say something about my emotional and social wellbeing in the late summer of 2004. I had just graduated with a near-meaningless degree from a liberal-arts college, and, having found no desirous employment options available to me, moved back in with my mother and father.
I had also finished a seriously negative long-term relationship at the end of my college career, and had had my heart broken by an old fling for the second time earlier that summer. In addition, I began working the night shift at a plastics factory, which was filled with down-and-out characters, most of them struggling Laotian refugees with little or no education or opportunity. It was a time of deep introspection, occasionally crippling depression, and the overwhelming feeling that some active questing was necessary to progress to a newer and better level.
Having had some minor experiences with salvia in college, I decided to order a sample from the Internet. The previous experiences to which I refer had always been pleasant enough, but weakly affective and dissapointingly fleeting: drowsiness and comfort would set in, usually for a period of no longer than five minutes. It reminded me of smoking marijuana with some low-grade opium on top, only the experience was far shorter.
Reflection and research had led me to hypothesize that I was not getting a proper concentration of Salvinorin A in the dried, unaltered leaves we smoked in college. So in ordering the aforementioned sample from the Internet, I was pleased to discover that the plant was available as augmented with more potent extracts of Salvinorin A. I selected the 20x extract, the highest concentration available from this particular site, and after waiting a few more days, it arrived in the mail.
It was late August or early September. I finished my shift at the factory one early morning at 8 a.m., as had been the custom for the past three-and-a-half months. During my last break, I had inadvertantly locked my keys in my car, so I was sitting on the hood and waiting for my mother, whom I had just called, to arrive with the spare key. She did, and casually mentioned that she was off to court and wouldn’t be back home until after I had woken up, late in the afternoon.
Seeing as my mom generally worked from home, I knew that this was an unequaled opportunity to test the salvia. I thanked my mother and drove the short distance home, where I promptly opened the doors and windows (to get a nice early-morning breeze), broke out my glass bubbler, filled the bowl with the salvia, and sat on the carpeted floor of my parents’ family room. My back was straight against the front of our couch; my bare feet straight out in front of me.
Stepping back for a minute here: I had been researching the effects of salvia as of late, and was well aware of the suggestion for a sober sitter, and was also, of course, mindful of my past psychedelic experiences tending towards anxiety and fright. I was certainly being naïve. Due to my underwhelming flirtations with salvia in college, and my recollections that a bad trip on acid or mushrooms is generally lessened by remembering the reality of one’s psychoactive ingestion, I was prepared to smoke the salvia with no sitter present. Big mistake, though not as bad as it could have been. I can’t say this enough: IF YOU’RE GOING TO USE SALVIA, ARRANGE FOR A SOBER SITTER.
So I sat in this position in front of my parents’ couch and lit the pipe. The familiar metallic/acrid taste of salvia smoke filled my lungs and I struggled to hold it in for a few seconds. I looked outside my backyard door, and the trees were morphing and “bubbling” a bit while I began to feel pleasantly dizzy, not unlike a nitrous hit. It seemed familiar and consistent with my salvia experiences in college and I thought, “why does everyone make such a big deal out of this drug.” I was totally overconfident in my ability to experience this drug solo in these few seconds.
I was totally overconfident in my ability to experience this drug solo in these few seconds.
“I’ll just take one more hit then, and leave it at that,” I thought. So I did.
As soon as I expelled the smoke from my lungs, the world melted, and I had the unbelievable realistic sensation that my ass and body were sinking through the floor, supported only by the oriental rug, which was also sinking under my own weight. Because I was “pulling” the rug in with my body weight this way, it had the visual effect of sinking slowly into darkness, with the “lights and colors” of the room shrinking into a smaller hole above my head. As this happened, the room lamp and a few other pieces of furniture anthropomorphosized and reached out with their hands to me in a loving gesture, saying (telepathically?) “Don’t be afraid. We’re here to help and guide you,” or something to that effect. I was both aware enough and out-of-it enough to have this incorrect epiphany before I sunk in all the way: “That’s so nice of my friends to come here and watch me while I do this. It’s so great that they’re concerned. I really love them.”
That’s the last semi-rational thing that crossed my mind for quite a few minutes. I don’t know if I dropped the pipe or not.
I wish I could tell you all about the peak experience (those 5-8 minutes immediately following the second hit), but the truth is all that remains is a lingering somatic memory of intensely bright colors, unbelievably violent motion, and a feeling that the world was being snapped up like a prismatic suitcase, shutting itself up in parceled tiles, and that I was frantically trying to find the last corner to disappear before I was swallowed up by the oblivion. All of these visuals and movements were entirely obscuring my “real vision” – in other words, I believe I was moving around my parents’ first floor with eyes open, but only perceiving hallucinatory visual stimuli. This was quite different from my numerous experiences with LSD and psilocybin: even at high dosage, most of my hallucinations would take place with either closed eyes, or some surreal cartoonish exaggeration of the real visual field. With mushroom use specifically, I had always perceived colorful geometric abstractions, but there were always superimposed as a grid over the real visual field. Not so with this salvia extract.
After the first couple minutes, I was in some colorful place where the creation of language occurs. I will try to describe this as best as I can. The world was populated with wriggly, writhing organisms: these were bizarre alphabetic runes, graphemes, pieces of sound, microscopic quarks of letters – all the component parts needed to make written & spoken language. They looked mystical, asemic and occult-oriented, appearing at times like Hebrew, Aramaic, Enochian particles. But they were also wet, undulating, and capable of morphing into different shapes. I think they were largely constructed by my mind to resemble the drawings of Rick Griffin (I had been reading up on the hisory of underground comix all summer): spermy, pulsating, paranoiac. The organisms seemed gleeful and even made some cutish, cartoony, squeaking noises. It was this glee that originally made me uneasy.
This is where it gets really hard to explain. I had a sensation of a word: FUCK. I’m not sure if I said it out loud or my mind merely constructed it internally. In any case, I was present in this land to see how this word was formed at its origin. I started by perceiving the whole word (especially as a sound, but linked metaphorically to these images), than something like FUC, then FU, then just the “Ffff” sound et cetera. I was going back in time and in scale to see how sounds are “born” so to speak. The movement was exponential in its velocity, so there was a “wooshing” effect to the whole scene, which was very reminiscent of my earlier perceptions of the “parceling up” of the world.
The image that correlated to this audial microscopy was a visual awareness that all of these organisms were arrayed on the bottom of the shoe of God. As he stepped, a word was born, and as he raised his foot up from the ground, heel first, the next word began to be formed. The organisms acted like gluey bits on the bottom of the infinite shoe so that they stretched between the heel and the ground-imprint before snapping back up against the sole as they were pulled free. This is what produced certain sound-forms for words.
So time was moving backward through the word FUCK until I was perceiving the exact structure and feeling of the gluey organisms being peeled and forming the “Fffffffffffffff” sound. At that moment, I WAS that Fffffffff, and I felt myself being peeled from the earth, sending me into the infinity of the “parceling up” again.
And then, the scope became so minute, that time and perception stopped. I was in the silence before the word FUCK began, and after the last (unknown) word had been spoken. I could feel nothing but stasis, which was unbearably frightening. I had absolutely no idea that I had taken a drug at this point: I thought I had accidentally stumbled into some nightmarish hole in physical space which existed, but was not usually perceptible. I felt something like: “Oh shit, I’ve gotten stuck in the endless space-between-words and I’ll never get BACK.”
I was suddenly aware of being in my parents’ kitchen, so I walked back in the family room and sat back down in my original position; on the floor, back up against the couch. I was really getting anxious now, though, so I went around the corner to the washroom to splash some cold water on my face. When I exited the bathroom and turned the corner again, I saw my body sitting in front of the couch, as if I hadn’t moved. This did not seem troublesome. I thought: “I’m just having a simple out-of-body experience and if I can CRAWL back into my head, I’ll be back in the drivers’ seat (so to speak), and reality will become reality again.” But no matter how I tried to walk towards my body, climb on top of the sofa cushions and crawl back into my head, I just kept sprialling closer or closer to it, in Fibonnaci terms. This is when I really started to panic.
Somehow I spiralled out and away and ended up in the kitchen again. I remember trying to look at the picture on that day’s newspaper to orient myself. I looked back in the family room, and it seemed my body was gone, which was a relief. The sensations of ensuing panic were really overwhelming me, but I couldn’t remember what had happened to make reality SEEM this way. I would ALMOST remember, but then it would fade, and I’d be left holding nothing. The unparceling of the world/infinite Fibonacci all over again.
I was increasingly feeling that everybody I knew – every person from my whole life – was in on this joke.
I was increasingly feeling that everybody I knew – every person from my whole life – was in on this joke.
That they had somehow tricked me into this perceptual black hole and that, by remembering what it was that had been done to me, it would cease. That, and they were all hiding behind objects close by and would jump out with huge, malevolent grins and say ‘surprise – we got you!’ once I had it figured out. These feelings, combined with getting closer and closer to the true realization of the experience, gave me this unbearably creepy sense that thee people were standing right behind me saying “yes . . . YES . . . you’ve ALMOST got it!!” What a frenzied bunch of terrifying ghouls!
I was frustrated and more than a little paranoid now. I sat back down in my original position and suddenly remembered that I had taken a drug. I remember hearing the words come out of my body “YOU SMOKED IT” (I’m pretty sure I said that out loud). What ‘it’ was, at this point, I wasn’t quite sure, but I could hold on to this point as a bit of substance (I mark this in retrospect as beginning the descent back in to reality).
Still paranoid, I felt that at any moment, someone was going to burst through my front door and be very angry and/or malicious/malevolent with me. I kept looking out the front door and seeing a mysterious van, motionless in the residential street right outside my lawn. What the hell was it doing there? I felt confused and scared, but decided that I was probably freaking myself out for no reason. Still, I was pretty sure the van was really there, and I wasn’t hallucinating it.
Within milliseconds, I found myself suddenly in my upstairs bedroom, breathing furiously and sweating, throwing my bubbler pipe in its hiding place like something really bad had just happened. Had it? I could not remember. Had my parents come home? I went running down the staircase as fast as possible, nearly falling & injuring myelf severely in the process. I could see the van, still there, out the window. I now felt that it had been there for quite a few minutes. Oh jesus . . . I couldn’t even remember the first few minutes of the experience. Had something terrible happened? Had I run out of the house and gone amok in my parents’ suburb?
Racking my brain, I came down just a little bit more to remember this: the drug I took was salvia, it was legal, and it would only last probably a few more minutes. I decided to ride it out and ignore the van outside, feeling it would probably go away, and this whole thing would be over soon. I laid down on the couch and turned on the TV to orient myself. There was some weird movie on Comedy Central and I remember Keifer Sutherland being onscreen with a woman and I recognized Keifer Sutherland as himself and this made me feel like I was getting a better grip on reality. The two characters were talking about a TV show I think and I thought “wow, that’s pretty funny and meta considering my state” and all of a sudden Keifer stops mid-line and freezes. “Oh no,” I think. He then says he forgot what his line is and the woman tries to come up with it and he says “no, I don’t think that’s it” and then, no fucking kidding, HE PULLS THE FUCKING SCRIPT OUT OF HIS BACK POCKET AND TURNS DIRECTLY TOWARD THE VIEWER, ASKING FOR HELP. I freaked out hard. I mean HARD. To this day, I have no clue what this movie is, or if a scene like this actually happens in it, but if you know, post it somewhere to ease my mind.
I frantically turned off the TV and stole a glance outside. That van was still there! My worked-up brain had concocted a marvelously fucked-up narrative at this point: while I was so out of it all I was seeing was colors, I must have run out into the street outside and gotten HIT BY THE CAR! Holy shit! Even if salvia was legal, this spelled certain legal doom for me. My only avenue was to go outside and reason with the driver, hoping he or she would go away.
I ran outside and across the lawn (as a side note, the lawn was spongy and vaguely moist and organic and fungal on my bare feet. It was simply the best lawn ever. In fact, I wrote a published poem about it later that month). I ran around to the driver’s side of the car, which had been obscured from the angle of my previous glances. I came around, wild-eyed, shoeless, at something like 8:30 A.M. and completely startled the middle-aged female driver and the middle-aged female jogger standing next to the window. They’d no doubt seen each other in the neighborhood that morning and rolled down the window to have a nice chat. I frightened both of them enough that they let out a yelp.
“What happened?!” I demanded, “who’d you hit?!?”
“No one,” they replied, still shocked.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and touched the jogger lightly on the shoulder, as if SHE were the one that needed consolation. I spun around on my heels and ran back across that lawn to ride out the last few minutes. Goodness, that lawn. How amazing it felt. And even though I should have been mortified by my behavior in front of my suburban neighbors, I felt released. Reaching the door, I laid back down on the couch and called my then-girlfriend at work to tell her what happened. After hanging up, I was aware of having come down from the majority of the drug. I felt energized, comfortable; a little angry and anxious with myself, perhaps, but drowsy and warm. I watched the trees outside the back door as they seemed to breathe and pulsate slowly with my own breath, and the breath of the walls in the room. Everything felt connected. I was glad to have been through it and come back to this place.
Fewer than two weeks later, I left the factory job and got a job I enjoyed so much more. I made some new friends, got some money together, and moved out of my parents house to go to graduate school a year later. Here I am, almost 4 years later and life is pretty good. I definitely feel that, despite the horrors of the salvia experience, it gave me a perceptual wisdom at a time in my life when it was desperately needed
it gave me a perceptual wisdom at a time in my life when it was desperately needed
Final analysis: Salvia will lend itself to possibly helpful and enlightening reflections after the fact, but it’s no picnic. I was challenged on all levels – and left reality as I know it. There was no safety net, as on LSD, where I could tell myself I was on a trip.
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