Every once in awhile, I ask myself a terrifying question: Am I still tripping on Salvia divinorum?
As anyone who has read my book will know, I smoked Salvia — the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogen known to humankind — in the summer of 2009 and it changed my life. Salvia made me question my reality in a way I never had before.
While tripping on salvia, I seemed to be “gone” for millions of years. I lived millions of different lives, kind of seated beside the consciousness of countless people, a passenger in their mind, experiencing their life with them. As soon as they died, I’d find myself in someone else’s mind. This process repeated millions of times until it was torture. I desperately longed to return to my life — the one I’d been living before I smoked that damned plant.
And I did. All of a sudden, I snapped out of it and found myself rolling around on the ground yelling “holy shit” over and over again. My salvia trip was complete. Or so I thought.
The thing is, my experience on salvia made it very clear that you can never trust your senses. What I experienced on salvia felt every bit as real as my everyday life. How do I know, then, that my everyday life is not itself an illusion?
That’s not an uncommon philosophical question for users of hallucinogenic drugs to ask. But with salvia, the question is more urgent. In the wake of my salvia trip, I often had flashbacks — a sensation that the world was once again spinning out of control and that any moment I’d find myself in that terrifying, otherworldly dimension I found myself in after smoking salvia. The thought began to creep into my mind that perhaps I was still tripping on salvia, that any moment I would find myself “coming to.”
There’s a movie that captures this sensation incredibly well. I actually saw it before I ever did salvia, but it came rushing back to mind in the weeks after my trip. If you haven’t seen the movie 1408, stop reading. I’m about to lay down some major spoilers.
The basic premise of the film 1408 is that John Cusack’s character, Mike Enslin, is trapped in this haunted hotel room. No matter what he tries, he can’t escape it … until, seemingly, he does.
He leaves the room and goes on living his life. For, like, weeks. Maybe even months, I don’t remember exactly. He’s living his life and he’s happy. Why wouldn’t be? He escaped that hell-hole of a hotel room, and he’s free.
But then, one day, Enslin’s happy life comes crashing down. Because he hasn’t escaped room 1408. He’s still there — the spirits or demons or whatever that possess the room have only made him think he escaped, all the better to torture him. You can see his realization that he’s still trapped in the video below:
That feeling that the life I’m currently living is going to come crashing down at any moment is unnerving. I’ve had some dissociative episodes while smoking marijuana and it felt a lot like being pulled back into salvia’s vortex. The sense of panic and dread is indescribable. It felt like I had still been tripping out on salvia the entire time and the truth was finally being revealed.
An interesting salvia trip report reminded me of this sensation. You can read about it here. The author, Steve Cantwell, describes taking Salvia and living another life for eight years. About four years in, he just accepted that this was his life; that the old life he remembered was some kind of hallucination or illusion. And then all of a sudden he was swept back to his old life, where only 45 seconds had gone by.
When you can live entire lifetimes while tripping on salvia, how can you ever be sure that the life you’re living is real and not part of the trip? The unfortunate answer appears to be that you can’t. To me, that’s a terrifying thought.