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I've been wanting to reply to your last e-mail for while, it was very interesting, but I have been very busy. I've also wanted to pull together your recent accounts into an experience section on the web-site, working title is 'Beauty and the Beast', so hopefully I will get a chance to do that in the not too distant.

I don't know how much further you have got with the experience side of things but your last one has got me thinking. One of the things I have found with Salvia is that it is a difficult experience to summarise or pin down, extraordinarily variable. So all I was suggesting in my last e-mail is that this may call for a variety of ways of seeing and dealing with the it.

You gave an account where you described 'taking charge', and I reckoned, from what had gone on before, that this was an appropriate strategy in this case. I didn't mean to suggest that you were avoiding something by doing this. Only that the Salvia experience is not always the same, and that you may find yourself in different circumstances in the future, where, despite your best efforts, you find that you are overwhelmed, and not in full control.

I've had many experiences with Salvia that have been very much to do with an encounter with something 'other'. I remember a series of encounters, each of which felt like I was getting closer and closer to the Mind of Nature. I declared as much to a close friend, and was going into these experiences with such expectations.

"I wonder what the Mind of Nature will reveal to me this time?" I remember having that particular thought one evening, but ending up on that occasion getting, well, ...nothing, the void, a dark, empty and sinister feeling. This too could have been something 'other', but it seemed somehow appropriate to relate to it as if it were an aspect of myself, my unconscious, or my shadow.

I can't quite explain why. Perhaps there is a degree of arbitrariness about how one chooses to view it, but I think not. I think Salvia is capable presenting 'other' entities AND it is capable of presenting aspects of the self. Maybe there isn't always a clear-cut definition between the two, but I maintain that the capability for both is always there.

Thinking about this some more since your writings, I think we (humans) have a tendency to model how things work, to come to conclusions about things, and, once we have a working model, we tend to shoehorn our experiences into that mindset, - whether they really fit or not.

A good plant ally is capable of overthrowing paradigms.

In my case, introductions to Salvia were eye-opening encounters with the Mind of Nature. It's not that this was later proven to be untrue. It's just that when I got to a point where I was starting to associate Salvia, its leafiness and its greenness, with the Mind of Nature, - to somewhat take it for granted, it overthrew this by revealing something else, - an aspect of myself.

Salvia has gone on to reveal a variety of tricks since, all of which make me somewhat cautious about trying to second-guess it.

In your case, I think you initially had another model, close to the 'standard' psychological model, which is bound to view all non-ordinary phenomena like these as phantoms, projections and aspects of the self. Aspects which, particularly if they are of an unpleasant nature, are seen as repressed and hidden parts of the unconscious mind suddenly showing themselves.

This model too is not completely wrong. It's a reasonable psychological model based on good observation of the human condition. It's useful to deal with manifestations as recognise them as aspects of the self, if in fact that is what they are. On the other hand, if they are actually something else, like free-standing entities, then obviously it's better to deal with them on that basis.

The trouble with getting to grips with this are the staggering implications. There is no 'standard' accepted psychological model, physical model, or any such theory to explain such phenomena as anything other than phantoms.

I've been having some thoughts about psychedelics and psychology recently. I suggest that the reason the study of psychology is not generally interested in psychedelic research is not simply that they are now mostly illegal substances, but they are substances that can produce effects beyond what standard psychological models can explain [...]>

Institutionalised research, it seems, is always interested only in doing work that supports existing theories; nobody wants to be forced to come up with new ones.

Anyway, I digress, slightly. To close here, I'd summarise by saying that I think Salvia is capable putting one into a novel space where any preconceived idea may have to yield.

As you kind of suggested in your conclusion, all one can do if one intends to explore these spaces is keep one's eyes open, maintain one's courage, and hope for the best.