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We get lots of strange stories here at Viewzone. Most have to do with discoveries, of one sort or another, and of what I would call "breakthrough" theories that hold the promise of stimulating or shaking our view of traditional reality. After a while, these stories all seem to echo of the same theme of lost civilizations, encounters with alien space people or impending doom from some planetary cataclysm. It can get a bit old.

My most popular piece in this magazine is the article on Left Brain - Right Brain functions, published back in 1999. I still get lots of e-mail and it continues to prompt people to explore an area that has not been exhausted on Viewzone: the inner space of the mind. And so I was asked to take up my keyboard once again when Viewzone began to be flooded with inquiries about a new, and legal, drug called Salvia Divinorum.

Unless you are familiar with the music of Tool or Mudvayne, you likely have never heard of Salvia Divinorum, or Sally as it is called by its users. It's not a recreational drug like marijuana or cocaine. Salvia is a hallucinogenic drug that is so strong in effect, and so unusual, that it has not been widely "abused" despite being readily available and cheap for over four years.

Salvia is a plant that grows in the sub-tropical forests of Mexico. It is a member of the mint family and was almost extinct from the imposing destruction of tropical forests in that region. Thankfully, now that it has been recognized for its medicinal properties, it is growing all over the planet, in easily maintained gardens, indoors and outdoors. Unlike marijuana, Salvia requires no power hungry halogen lights or fancy hydroponics. It can be grown by anyone who has kept Mom's African Violets alive on the bookshelf, and it is easy to cultivate and clone.

In fact, lots of people are growing Salvia these days and the internet is full of web sites where plants, seed and the dried leaves are sold and shipped to virtually every country except Australia, which recently banned the plant. One of the most reliable sources of Salvia is www.salvia-divinorum.com, who will promptly send your order by UPS shipping. There are a few rip-off businesses out there but this company seems to be highly respected and to maintain excellent quality control. This company also has other botanicals which Viewzone will, hopefully, review and report in the near future.

What's the interest in this plant?

Back in the 1960's a team of pharmacologists visited the Mazatec Indians, who live in the mountains of northern Oaxaca, Mexico. For centuries their shamans have used hallucinogens in religious and healing ceremonies. Many of these mind-altering substances were unknown, but soon after this expedition such plants as mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms were being used around the world. Salvia was in this same family but its recreational use never really became as popular.

Salvia leaves contain a substance called Salvinorin-A, the most powerful hallucinogen known to science -- even more potent per weight than LSD. It's an odd substance since, unlike virtually every other mind altering drug, it is not an alkaloid. Also, attempts to determine how it functions and which neurotransmitters it either potentiates or inhibits have eluded researchers. The leaves are traditionally chewed and absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth, but it is also dried and smokes like marijuana, or is taken under the tongue in the form of a purified tincture of savinorin-A.

The effects of Salvia are quick and very strong. Even if you have had experience with LSD or "magic mushrooms," Salvia goes beyond any of these so-called "trips" -- enough so that many people who experiment with Salvia vow never to use it again. Not only is Salvia quick acting and powerful but the effects are of extremely short duration - often only a few minutes. This short duration has led to the current re-emergence of Salvia as a tool for meditation and psychic exploration.

Salvia has been called a "wild ride." With only one or two "hits" of a pipe users are almost instantly immersed in an out of body experience where time and place seem to be under the control of the drug. Any sensory stimulation takes the user on a lucid dream like state where anything from cartoons to spirit guides can appear as real as normal consciousness, with no sense of being "high" or under the influence of a chemical. In fact, so common is the sensation of a "guide" or "other presence" that frequent users have given "her" a name, and often speak of "Sally" or "the Goddess" as a significant participant in their experience.

Viewzone asked me to write about this drug so, quite naturally, I had to try it. It had been many years since my psychedelic days, but I have been known to remind myself of the "good ol' days" now and then. I purchased some extract on the internet - 2 grams of enhanced ground leaves for about $30 (US), from www.salvia-divinorum.com. I was sure to check the laws and this was perfectly legal in America. The Salvia arrived in about three days and was packaged in a small plastic bag. It looked very much like dark, ground marijuana leaves, had no significant smell, and burned nicely in a small pipe with no coughing. But that was where any similarity to marijuana ended.

Almost as soon as I had finished the first hit from my pipe I knew something powerful was happening. The room started spinning and my ears began to focus on the Led Zeppelin album I had playing in the background. Suddenly I was not in my office anymore but in a kaleidoscope of colorful intersecting planes that rotated not only in front of me, but through my body.

With Salvia you lose whatever part of your psyche that keeps you in your body. You become something else that regards your own flesh and blood the same way as you normally regard the wall or your desk.

As the planes rotated they dissected my body and I watched, amused, as my flesh was transformed into the plane, becoming part of it and vanishing in a vortex. I turned to speak to the woman in the room. I wanted to tell her that the Salvia was for real and that I was having a very strong reaction but I could not seem to speak. Somehow I knew that she understood anyway. Then I was reminded that I was alone -- there was no woman!

Gradually the visions became so strong that they completely took over. I was helpless. I was not in control of this world but only an observer. A bit of fear entered my mind. "Would I ever come back to my former life?"

Just as quickly as it started, I found myself sitting in my chair, pipe still in my hand. I looked at the clock. Only 4 minutes had passed but it had seemed much longer. For the next hour I sat, trying to put my experience in words. It was not easy since I had very little experience with anything that I could compare to the Salvia world.

Since then I have noticed a change. I no longer am sure that this reality is true. I experienced something that was real, and yet was not of the same world as my body, or any other material substance. I experienced this just as any other experience that seemed real and worthy of being valid. Somehow that changes everything, but I have not yet completely understood how. This is the magic of Salvia Divinorum.

I was curious about the experiences of other people and so perused the newsgroups. There is a group called "alt.drugs.salvia" that has many personal accounts that are similar to mine. There are also many that are more intense. I have quoted a few on the next page (see bottom of page).

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