The Living Truth

William Arden Ruth

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I am a 49-year-old man, married for 22 years, a homeowner, gainfully employed and with diverse interests and skills vocationally and avocationally, including prehospital medicine, having been a practicing paramedic for 20 years and an Emergency Medical Technician instructor for 15 years. I have a good reputation in my community, and my friends include a computer systems analyst, police officers, clergymen, schoolteachers, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, a planetarium/observatory director, and electrical engineers.

I pride myself on having a highly-developed instinct for self-preservation. As a paramedic, I have seen the tragic results of people driving while intoxicated, and watched people destroy themselves intentionally and unintentionally through overeating, daily overconsumption of alcohol and tobacco, and engaging in high-risk behavior such as motorcycling without wearing a helmet, being sexually promiscuous without using protection, or using street drugs which diminish consciousness and adversely affect the body. I believe that the body truly is "the temple of the Holy Spirit", the very body of Buddha, and should be treated with utmost respect. We carry a very precious cargo on two legs, every one of us, and should live with due regard for the health and safety of this divine being.

I have learned for myself, just as the Mazatec people in Oaxaca have learned over the centuries, that Salvia divinorum is beneficial, safe, has great medicinal properties, and its use leads to enhanced health and well-being even when used at infrequent intervals. As the Salvia experience is one of overwhelming awe in the presence of the sacred, using it while engaged in mundane, high-risk activities such as driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery is unthinkable.

With such a respectable reputation and a high regard for the health and safety of my body, every body, you may wonder why I ever decided to experiment with Salvia divinorum, a psychoactive plant. The reasons lie both with my primary interest and skill, which is contemplation of the mystery of sentient existence, and the inherent safety of Salvia divinorum, which happens to be a truly medicinal herb.

Salvia divinorum is not for everyone. Those individuals who are not ready for the Salvia experience find out they're not ready soon after trying it; they either get no effects, disappointing effects, or unpleasant effects. This self-limiting, selective effect of Salvia effectively discourages abuse by those individuals who look to Salvia as a "party drug" or as an escape from responsibilities, both of which Salvia is decidedly NOT. Contemplation, and soul-baring, is Salvia's forte. Salvia is not suitable for immature and casual users, and requires a certain degree of courage and honesty to use to its fullest potential. The state of unconditioned being is a remarkable experience that can only be appreciated by those with a mature ego that is ripe to be transcended.

My entire life has been one characterized by introspection, reflection, and self-awareness. Ever since childhood, I have been asking the ‘big questions’: Who am I? How is it that we, or anything, exist? What makes me different from ‘others’? How do ‘others’ experience their existence? What would it feel like to be someone else? What is our relationship with the universe?

As the cultural conditioning of American urban-industrial society gradually degraded the innocence of my childhood, I became a very unhappy adolescent and adult, coming of age in the midst of the Vietnam War and Watergate. I came to realize that those who happened to rise to positions of authority do not necessarily possess the wisdom or integrity to be worthy of their power to make and enforce laws. And so it is today. There are now those who want a psychoactive mint plant used over the centuries by indigenous Mexican people for healing and religious experiences to be forbidden to Americans, including those seeking healing and spiritual vision.

Salvia divinorum has given me unforgettable experiences of deep meaning and healing, enabling me to better understand my relationship to the web of life, the ground of being. Salvia has, literally, brought me back to life, to utter freedom, to clarity of mind, to profound peace. These persisting benefits are not Salvia-dependent. I will always remember, and cherish, and be profoundly grateful, for what Salvia has helped me be able to see: the oneness of life, the sacredness of life. Salvia has taken me to the living truth.

In our brief time in human form we have the opportunity to understand, to the limits of our abilities, the mystery of being; Salvia helps extend our abilities in this regard. That from which we come, That to which we return, awaits us; to want to better understand That, to commune with That, to surrender to That, is everyone’s birthright. Salvia divinorum, a plant which somehow facilitates a new awareness of That which lives in us as us, is a religious sacrament that only those unfamiliar with its blessings would want to outlaw.

When I first experienced Salvia divinorum in April 2000 I knew it was a genuine entheogen, a most therapeutic teacher-plant. I was so deeply affected by the Salvia experience that I made a vow to stand up for this plant if there ever came a time an uncomprehending authoritarian force attempted to make it illegal. That time has now come. There are some legislators who now want to take away one of the safest, most effective tools individuals can use to enhance consciousness.

It is sad to see how nicotine and alcohol, which are addictive, cause disease and diminish consciousness, are legal and socially acceptable; how prescription psychoactive drugs keep drug companies wealthy and the populace compliant and dependent; and how a humble plant that is nontoxic, nonaddicting and life-enhancing is at risk of being turned into a Schedule I ‘drug’, sharing the same legal status as heroin. This is not just. This is not necessary.

Does Salvia divinorum, used wisely, cause harm to the user or to anyone else? NO.

Does turning Salvia divinorum into a Schedule I ‘drug’ cause harm to others? YES. Arrest and incarceration ruins careers, destroys families, deprives individuals of rights and liberty.

My personal, therapeutic, sacramental use of a humble Mexican entheogen is between me and the universe; that it could possibly become Big Brother’s business bodes ill for the citizens of the so-called Land of the Free.

Ingesting a particular plant that helps me want to be a better person, to live more in accordance with the vision the plant provides, is an act of worship, not a criminal act. If the day ever came where I was persecuted for sharing this plant’s life with my own, I will know that I am in fact being persecuted for religious reasons, and that the First Amendment protection of the individual to practice his/her own religion without government interference is null and void. I write this now as a free citizen. I hope I never have to write from a prison cell. To practice civil disobedience along with my religion is something I intend to do for the rest of my life. My ancestors came to the New World to escape religious persecution, among other reasons; where am I to flee when my fellow Americans persecute me for the practice of my religion?

At least I have lived long enough, and was fortunate enough, to have known Salvia divinorum, a beneficent plant that has enriched my life and understanding in ways beyond all words or measure. It is my heartfelt desire that Salvia be always available to those who would benefit from it.

Salvia divinorum is a bona fide sacrament to the Mazatec people of Oaxaca and now to people all over the world. The fact that it is perfectly legal was one of the reasons I was lucky enough to discover how therapeutic Salvia divinorum is. I also knew right away that Salvia's legal status would serve as a litmus test to determine which direction our government is heading: toward more respect for individual freedom, or toward less.

Salvia divinorum is literally a Godsend: a form of life, a manifestation of God which, when consumed by the human animal, reveals the divinity within, and heals the person afflicted with the ills, the delusions, of a decadent culture.

A plant which awakens the human mind to the web of life within and without is a priceless thing in these times of alienation and impending ecological disaster. Salvia opens the human heart to the totality of life.

For those who wish to leave the false world of mass media and cultural conditioning behind to explore firsthand the deeper truth of the living moment, Salvia divinorum--and all means of enhancing consciousness--should not be denied them.

If there would be anyone who sincerely wants to ban the possession and use of Salvia divinorum "for our own good" or "for the safety of the public" they should first educate themselves about the true nature of this herb and, because of its proven safety, try it themselves and understand through firsthand experience why the relatively few people who use Salvia want it to be available in perpetuity to spiritual seekers and those in need of healing.

To deny anyone the opportunity to experience the special powers of this plant would be an abuse of power, a restriction of others’ personal freedom, which is incompatible with ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

May all people find, by any means, the healing peace, wisdom and love of the spirit, the life of all lives.

William Arden Ruth
Oberlin, Ohio
October 21, 2002