I am a logical person. I am very interested in science and its methodology, but I recognise that spiritual explanations for natural or unnatural phenomena may have utility...for some people. My uncle, for example, likes to smoke marijuana because it helps him to relax and unwind, but for my stepdad, it makes him anxious and irritable.
I have smoked marijuana and it can range from headaches to uncontrollable laughter, but mostly headaches.
So recently I had a bit of money to spare and so decided I wanted to 'expand my mind', and so I looked at what things I could buy to get myself some spiritual experience. I am not religious nor do I believe in ghosts. I believe religion, like politics, to be a source of culture and a fountain of human power quanta and not a 'truth'. Truth is something horrific, something that will shock us to the core. It isn't beautiful. Beautiful things exist to keep us from the truth; hence art. Only science will find out the truth.
So I approached this without much scientific thinking, but wanted to see if there is anything spiritual to these 'drugs' that people use to get high and have mystical experiences. I could have tried LSD, but I didn't. I was immediately attracted to SD because it was touted as a potent entheogen - actually the wording was 'potent psychedlic'. So that's what I opted for and I get two 5mg bags of the dried leaf.
It arrived in the post and I began doing more research into it. I asked arround for some advice because I was going to be alone in trying this stuff. I tried it in the bong and it was unpleasant. I had a good setting; every thing was conducive enough. It wasn't a breakthrough dose but it did shake me up. I got to the orangey-coloured vortex stage and the pins and needles. I got breathless. Felt cold. My face was being drawn toward the right in an arc fashion. It was so quick. I forgot the things around me. It didn't last very long. It was not the experience I wanted and after about 10 minutes of it wearing off I can remember feeling that I was going to die as in 'not coming back'.
This was intruiging and it's not something I even want to experience again.
I did more research and told my story to a few 'psychonnauts', but their responses were unscientific, some were just ridiculous such as the reason why I lost my sex drive for several days was because Salvia is a goddess and her 'space' is feminine. I thought that was a strange response. Apparently, it was due to Christian influence that this plant is referred as Ska Maria Pastora among the Mazatecs. Surely, we can disregard this plants association with the virgin Mary?
Another 'pyschonnaut' told me that I did not have a full SD breakthrough and that my feelings toward SD was a case of 'adapting to Salvia space' and that I should probe further with it and 'get to the know the space'. Again this was just not scientific enough for me. One 'psychonnaut' wrote a lengthy post in reponse to my experience and it was like reading a religious missive on the afterlife.
Is that really waht SD is like? Maybe it is for the Mazatecs, but I didn't chew the leaves like they did. I smoked it and that is something that the Mazatecs don't do.
So I got frustrated with these on-line shamans. My logical and scientific mind was riasing the alarm. What exactly happened in that SD trip?
So I decided to look at the scientific literature and was shocked.
SD is a disassociative. Salvinorin A is the molecule that is responsible and it docks to the Kappa receptors in the brain and possibly the spine. Salvinorin A depletes dopamine and has action on prolactin, which depletes testosterone. The hallucinatory effects of SD could be attributed to changes in blood pressure.
It all started to fall into place somewhat. I had been feeling demotivated for days after taking SD. I lost my sex drive for several days. I felt spaced out. I felt in quite a low mood too.
The science was what was lacking in SD experience. I had taken a plant whose effects mimic psychosis. My lack of sex drive had nothing to do with the 'Salvia goddess', but with testosterone depletion. My low mood was not me 'trying to adapt and take it all in', but I was dopamine depleted. During the SD experience I lost my memory of the world I knew. That's what dissociatives do. Scientists can even make a synthetic drug that can have the same effects as that.
What possible reason is there for this plant being a 'spiritual plant' at all? Why all the pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo about this plant being a 'gooddess' and the 'circus' with its 'wheels and zippers'? Sure, I am willing to believe that people taking SD will experience this and more. Do the Mazatecs experience these wheels and zippers? I have not read any literature of them experiencing this. But apparently they consider SD 'less desireable' than taking mushrooms. Does that mean they too think it an unpleasant experience?
Not every user of SD has an unpleasant Salvia trip, but apparently it is less common to have a truly spiritual and pleasureable experience from it, and most who smoke it report that is too intense and unpleasant, thankfully lasting only a few minutes.
Why smoke it? What does smoking do to the plant? Does the intense heat affect the quality of the Salvinorin molecule? Molecules do become oxidised, apparently. Is oxidation responsible for SD's negative experience?
So I am prepared to accept that the fresh leaves accrue a more enjoyable SD experience for users. This doesn't mean that I am dispensing with the science, and the science says to me that I should stay clear of smoking this plant:
1) it depletes dopamine
2) it mimics pyschosis
3) it interacts with prolactin, depleting testosterone
4) it is a disassociative
These four indications don't look very promising to me. I don't think we should be smoking it and I don't think the Mazatec are aware of what this plant does to the brain. Their reference point for this plant and its effects rests with their culture, which is grounded in the spiritual and in nature. We don't have that in the west. We have logic and science. It is a thing of wonder to believe that plants like SD offer spiritual insights, but science seems to have a different explanation for what is going on when we experience things from them. It's merriment and joy when we get tipsy and drunk, and when I get tipsy there is a point at which I feel like I could take on the world, but that's not what is happening:
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
Spiritual explanations for 'mystical' experiences are not necessarily good for us, and I think that SD is no exception. Of course, you might say "well, SD is a teacher plant...it's not meant to be pleasureable'. So what is the logical conclusion to that? SD mimics psychosis...is that what the learning experience is? To know what madness is like? Are we to become pyschotic on our 'spiritual path' with SD?
That's a curious 'spiritual' path to take. One could almost say that it is a fool's path.