The Other Green Party

Your reasons against return visits to Salvia-space are some of the most considered that Iíve ever heard. Youíll appreciate that much of what feel I have to defend myself against are more reactionary (and usually hypocritical) "donít do drugs" arguments [...]>. Perhaps I get a little over defensive. You are obviously coming from somewhere different, but I still have a few concerns even if some of them might seems a little pedantic.

For a start (and as partial disclaimer) though, I reckon itís worth emphasising again that I think these are ultimately personal decisions based on oneís own experiences. I said that I related to the aspect of your experience that felt like it was popping back to something youíd always been doing. That, even though it was months since your last experience, no time had elapsed in that realm, that you felt that you had left it only a moment ago. However, I canít really appreciate the intensity and the complexities that experience had for you. You said how difficult it was to put into words. As I said to another of my plant recipientís in the ĎBeauty and the Beastí series, by comparison, I may be a bit of a Salvia hardhead. - Rather than being totally overwhelmed in Salvia-space, I usually retain some awareness that Iím Ďhaving an experienceí, that something is being suggested to me.

In the Beauty and the Beast> series I have an account from someone who becomes spirited inside the body of a dog. This emphasises how variant the intensity and the content of the experience can be from individual to individual. But another point is that personally, with continued Saliva use, I have found the experience to be developmental and also quite intra-individually variant too (i.e. showing me quite different things at different times). Ė As a result I never feel that I have been there done that or Ďgot the T-shirtí.

Now, we could simply agree to differ on the nature and the interpretation of our different experiences, but I catch something in myself which I feel I need to personally overcome, and so wonder too about it being a more general part of the human predicament.

My brother says that whenever he has cannabis available (so that he has a side-by-side choice with Salvia), he nearly always uses the cannabis first. And he confesses to me that itís not some high-felutiní argument about the superiority of cannabis over Salvia divinorum or anything else, but more like the reason for choosing a bar of chocolate over a plate of spinach.

Another metaphor that I use (If youíll forgive me mixing my metaphors on this) is that Salvia is like taking a cold shower. It takes a fair degree of psycheing up for, and often does not seem like the most appealing thing to do, especially when one is anyway feeling nice and dry, warm and comfortable.

Your point about heading off into infinity being potentially selfish reminds me of the story of Buddhaís enlightenment. He stands on the edge of Nirvana, but turns back to this world in order to help others.

I passed on your initial account of your experience to a friend (a Buddhist, and not a plant-person) and she said that she totally related to the idea of not needing to return to that realm, based on her own experience. In my friendís case I can accept the reasoning that followed from her experience, but, pressing the point to obtain what I think is an essential detail, I can still argue that this is not a good reason for not being a plant-person.

In my friendís case, her major psychedelic experience was on MDMA. Now, I donít have personal experience with this substance, but it certainly isnít plant-based. What it appears to be (to me anyway) is a kind of a psychedelic with a Ďsafety-netí, which pretty much guarantees a Ďblissed-outí state. - Iím not saying that this invalidates the experience, - it could have undoubted value, but I would tend to agree that simple repetition here may be nothing more than indulgence.

The state of bliss is how we envisage Nirvana. We are not asked to accept that Buddha in any way could not handle his experience, or that he stepped back from the brink out of sheer terror.

You have given very balanced accounts that certainly acknowledge the terrifying aspects in your experience. You also state how finely balanced the whole thing is, so I wouldnít want you to think that Iíve missed this just so I can bring up contradictory points.

But it should be remembered that while these terrifying aspects endure, an argument along the lines of, "itís more important concentrate on creating beauty in this life, than it is to escape into the infinite", also has the benefit of getting one Ďoff the hookí.

These realms are by no means easy to navigate. We agree that we are not really equipped to deal with such experiences. Thatís part of what makes it so terrifying, but I see our inability to deal with it as having more to do with our lack of preparedness and our conditioning.

When I think about what I have experienced in these altered states, I realise that nothing that I have been taught, by my parents or at school or by organised religion or that I can find in any political ideology, is really of any use to me there. But my conclusion about this (coupled with the fact that I choose to continue to explore these spaces) is that I see all these worldly institutions as having failed me, not that I have no place in those realms.

And if one does choose to continue to investigate these states, then, perhaps simply by virtue of the Ďpracticeí gained, one does become better able to navigate the space. In addition, I maintain, one continues to learn a great deal about oneself, which does have a bearing in this world.

Very finely balanced indeed. So itís worth emphasising that I do see this reason, - of not being able to handle the experience, as being perfectly valid. Letís not get into macho ingestion syndrome. Oneís ability to deal with the experience requires a very sober personal assessment. I would never wish to goad anyone about this, especially, as Iíve already said, when personal sensitivity to different plant experiences can vary so much from individual to individual.

But while this terrifying element remains so prevalent in oneís own experience, one should also be very careful about presenting otherwise virtuous and altruistic reasons for future abstinence.

My final points here would be about the difficulties, as I see them, of trying to affect change in this world without such powerful plant allies as Salvia divinorum

It seems to me that to try to do this is to hope to appeal principally to our reasonableness. Some might call it compassion, but this is a form of reasonableness too.

As you put it, the solution to our problems would require, "a degree of human co-operation of an historically unprecedented quality and scale." I have to say that Iím very pessimistic about humanityís ability to pull this off. It would be so historically unprecedented that itís hard to see where the impetus could otherwise come from, certainly in the time scales required.

It may be common sense to you or I that, for example, the Palestinians and the Israelis would be better off they could learn to co-operate and live in peace, respecting each otherís differences, etc. etc. But in practice this is just an idealised position. Even when one is being flawlessly reasonable, one still has to compete against other ideologies and whatever else is fuelling them.

I was speaking to someone else recently about this (you can see youíve really got me thinking about it). They also were quick to agree with your position, saying that we really should be Ďtidying up our own back yard before setting off for infinityí.

We got into discussions about many things, mainly about corporate globalisation. He gave me many facts and figures that I was not aware of, about for example how workers in foreign countries are paid a pittance to produce goods for companies like Nike and Gap.

I couldnít argue with any of it. Obviously, such things should not be.

Then more facts and figures about how tobacco companies influence, bribe and bring pressure to bear wherever they can in order to perpetuate their market shares, and how governments are unable / unwilling to really do anything about it.

Again, I could not disagree with the facts. But where I agreed that we should be opposed to such things, morally, if you like, I was not sure specifically what I was being asked to do about it.

What action am I supposed to take? - Something other than propagating Salvia plants and sending them all over Europe?

Itís one thing to say, "we must tidy up this playground and pick up our litter before we can truly move on", but what does that actually mean? Charles Kennedy says that the Liberal-Democrats stand for "Honesty, justice and freedom", well that sounds nice too. Itís when we get down to specifics that difficulties occur.

At this point I also thought, "Hang on, I donít actually smoke tobacco. Come to think of it, I donít wear Nike trainers, or get my clothes from Gap either." But rather than claim the moral high ground with newly understood arguments about capitalism and the workings of global corporations, I wondered, if I did actually smoke, would I give it up for largely ideological reasons?

It seems to me that people, by-and-large, do not do things like giving up smoking for ideological reasons. Neither do I advocate ingesting Salvia for ideological reasons, - even though I consider it ideologically sound.

I personally donít pay over the odds for a product with a trendy logo on it because that just seems to me so obviously stupid. And if anyone in the developed world does not realise by now that cigarettes are bad for your health, well that just beggars belief.

People do these things because they are caught and affected by forces that have little to do with reason; - appeals to reason alone are not enough of a counter-force, and never will be.

Experiences with true power-plants bypass all this. Instead of the whys-and-wherefores of competing ideologies one instead encounters the felt presence of immediate experience>. This evaporates all ideologies and I think it is at the heart of why Salvia really is so scary. Maybe when it ceases to be so it will be time to stop doing it.