Many people who use Salvia divinorum report experiencing ego death. But what is ego death, and what does it have to do with salvia?
Wikipedia defines ego death as a “complete loss of subjective self-identity.” I would define it like this: Think about your self-awareness. I mean really stop and think about it. Think about what it means to be aware of who you are — to be aware of your body, your memories, your name, your thoughts. Then imagine all of that disappearing, yet you’re somehow aware that it’s disappearing, aware that you once were you, but now are not. That’s ego death — at least, that’s how I experienced it.
Experiencing ego death
The death of the ego is not a pleasant sensation, in my experience. That being said, some people report that ego death is an enlightening, spiritual experience. It probably has a lot to do with your attitude going into it. When I smoked Salvia, I was not aware of how powerful it was. I was using an ancient, spiritual substance as a party drug, and the experience I got was a terrifying one.
I haven’t done Salvia again — I’m terrified to — but I do know that some people have positive spiritual experiences on Salvia, and I think a lot of that has to do with the setting and mindset people put themselves in before using it. If you try Salvia with a humble, mindful attitude, you may have a better experience (although Salvia can be unpredictable, so you could still experience a bad trip — Salvia is definitely not for the faint of heart, and you should go into it knowing that you’re risking a bad trip, and that the experience could change your life forever, for better or worse).
The signs and symptoms of ego death
The first thing you’ll likely feel if you experience ego death is your sense of self dissolving. As I mentioned earlier, you won’t necessarily lose your senses. You very well may be experiencing what’s going on around you (or at least, what you perceive as going on around you, if you’re hallucinating). But it doesn’t feel like you are observing those things. It doesn’t feel like things are happening to you. It’s kind of what you might imagine an inanimate object, like a rock, would experience if it had some way to perceive the world.
Life after ego death
If you’re anything like me, you may find that your life changes after experiencing ego death. How do you move on from something like that? How do you keep living after experiencing ego death?
I found solace in religion and philosophy. I think the biggest effect of experiencing ego death was that I was flooded with questions: Who am I? What is human consciousness, really? Am I real? These are the kinds of profound questions the dissolution of your ego tends to put in your head, and they’re also the kinds of questions some of the greatest minds in human history have tried to answer. That kind of kinship, knowing that people throughout time have the same kind of existential questions, is comforting.
If the experience really fucks you up, don’t hesitate to see a qualified mental health professional. There’s no shame in that. And remember, if you’re going through an existential crisis, you’re not alone.