This particular subjective effect component may not be the most profound, therapeutic, or spiritual state of mind available within the hallucinogenic experience. However, in my personal opinion, it is quite likely to be one of the most uniquely baffling and inexplicable effects when it comes to both undergoing it and considering the causes behind it. While I may not have a particularly in-depth academic knowledge of neurology and psychopharmacology, the vast majority of subjective effects that occur under the influence of hallucinogenic substances at least have some sort of vaguely plausible mechanism or cause that I can immediately speculate upon. In contrast, however, I have struggled for years to come up with a satisfying hypothesis on why Salvia Divinorum can cause human brains to quite reliably create states in which a person’s awareness and felt bodily form suddenly becomes enveloped by rotating panels, conveyer belts, pulleys, gears, and all manner of other interlocking mechanical parts.
At face value, I would initially assume that machinescapes are simply a type of hallucination that occurs among people as a result of the cultural influence of living in a world in which we are all acutely aware of the existence of machinery. However, the fact that this experience is so consistently reported by people under the influence of a very specific compound leads me to believe that there is at least a little more to it than that. This is especially interesting to consider in the context of Salvia Divinorum’s unique pharmacology, in which it functions as a potent k-opioid receptor agonist. While the k-opioid receptor system is not well understood, it is known that these receptors have the highest prevalence within the claustrum, a system that is the most densely connected structure in the brain and that’s been shown to have widespread activity throughout numerous cortical components. These are associated with playing key roles in consciousness, higher cognitive functioning, and sustained attention. It is further theorised that the claustrum harmonises and coordinates activity in various parts of the cortex in a manner that leads to the seamlessly integrated nature of subjective conscious experience. All of this suggests to me that this unique hallucinogen is creating disruptions and changes to brain function that occur on a much deeper, widespread, and fundamental level than that of psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.
When taking this knowledge into consideration, I am led to suspect that machinescapes may occur under the influence of salvia due to the way this substance reliably disrupts consciousness on an all-encompassing level. If I had to guess I would say that this could potentially cause the experience of machinescapes to occur in a number of ways. For example, perhaps it causes the brain’s internal map of the bodies form to reassemble in complex and unpredictable ways, which are then accompanied by visual hallucinations that are commonly interpreted as interlocking mechanical parts. It may also trigger data from various parts of the brain to spill over into areas in unusual and complex ways, that they would usually otherwise not, resulting in this data being interpreted as a more simplistic but mechanical-esque equivalent to psychedelic geometry accompanied by an equivalent tactile sensation. It could also potentially be a unique form of internal hallucination that the brain will often render when it is largely incapable of drawing from its memory database of more coherent everyday concepts. Alternatively, however, this experience may be a result of a combination of these factors, or an entirely different process altogether. Unfortunately, none of these speculative ideas feel particularly satisfactory to me and I also sincerely doubt that the causes behind this incredibly niche experience will be understood at a scientific level within my lifetime.