In the universe of Goda’s Slave, Samma is a term with several different meanings, depending on the culture that uses it. Most literally, it refers to the deity that the Middlelanders and Lowerlanders mutually worshiped prior to their splitting up tens of thousands of years before Goda’s Slave.
Though vastly different in structure, the modern state religion of the Middlelanders (The Cult of Mahara) is a distant descendant of the religion associated with Samma, as are most religions on The Continent.
Reverence of Samma never completely fell out of practice and continued to exist in mystery cults throughout the Outerland. It has seen a resurgence in modern times in the form of the quickly-growing Flower Cult, which uses a powerful psychedelic plant in order to make “contact” with the entity Samma.
Some characters (such as Lila Hadd on several occasions) may simply refer to this entity as God, Goddess, Nature, or The Presence.
Nature of Samma
Samma is a transcendent god-goddess, is completely androgynous in every capacity (not only in matters of gender), and is completely free of the limits of dualities, binaries, or opposing polarity. Samma is passionately in love with all of existence–with all people, creatures, objects, places, and even empty space–with no exceptions. Samma is innocent of both good and evil.
According to the Flower Cult, Samma is the source of all the material world and continues to permeate the seemingly empty space between and within all objects. In this sense, Samma is everything. This entity is the source of consciousness itself and cannot be separated from anything in the material world or any other realm. Samma is also the glue that unifies all people and objects in sameness.
Because They are beyond concept, members of the Flower Cult acknowledge that Samma cannot be known, but that human beings may experience Their presence. Often, this entity is experienced as Oneness or Everything (which can be overwhelming), as Nothingness (which can be terrifying), or as an intense surge of Love (which can feel like either death or ecstasy).
The greatest barrier to experiencing Samma is the personal self-concept, which is dissolved by intimate contact with Samma. In truth, this self-concept is also made of Samma’s consciousness, but uses a disguise in order to perpetuate the personal experience of a human individual and convince the human that they are separate from all of existence. Samma does this on purpose in order to experience the limitations of human life (because Samma is normally unlimited, eternal, and infinite in size).
Contact With Samma
Samma gazes through the eyes of every perspective. All things (including all humans) are Samma, so in this sense, all things are already in contact with this entity. However, Samma’s consciousness can become self-aware through an individual perspective (such as that of a human), which is what Flower Cult members mean when they say they have made “contact.”
Most humans do not notice that this entity lives in them and that it experiences reality along with them. Because Samma can only gaze with total acceptance and non-judgment, when a human does become self-aware of the gaze (which can be inward or outward), they experience it as an intense surge of unconditional love.
Sometimes the love is so intense and all-encompassing that the human resists it, as they see themselves falling in love with things that they previously viewed as evil (enemies, criminals, and so on), which can permanently damage the limited self-concept and personality. In cases like these, contact with Samma can become nightmarish. (This happened to Goda Brahm. She interpreted her first intimate contact with Samma as death and was unable to communicate with the entity as a result. To a lesser extent, this also happens later on to Eyan Mah, who has a nightmare that she has forgiven Goda.)
Contact with Samma can happen spontaneously in moments when the human willingly surrenders the Self, but more often requires external help. Members of the Flower Cult use a special plant medicine (a drug) made from Samma Flower (also called Death Flower by the Middlelander government) in order to temporarily loosen or dissolve the self-concept. This plant has a substance that turns off the parts of the brain that create barriers between self and other.
Ancient cult members also established shrines throughout the continent inside dark caverns that are meant to unravel parts of the self, so that the visitor can experience the truth beneath their biases. Knowledge of how the shrines work has been lost over thousands of years, but the shrines themselves appear to be conscious and will avoid contacting humans who are not prepared for the experience. (Goda mentions to Kanna early on in Goda’s Slave that the shrines are “picky.”)
Communication between Samma and human beings can be difficult due to Samma’s different state of consciousness and much wider perspective. Because of this, Samma will usually employ mediums in the environment that a human might understand (such as people, objects, and circumstances) in order to relay messages or give suggestions in a narrower way.
Messages are rarely in human words, although some “channeling” entities exist who can connect to Samma and verbalize specific messages or prophecies. For example, the High Priestess of the Middleland can do this. This can be challenging, however, as the channel is often in a different state of consciousness from the listeners as well, and the latter may take the messages too literally.
Relationship to Snakes
“Snakes” or “serpents,” as they are known to the Middlelanders, are the tangled threads of Samma’s divided consciousness. In order to become self-aware, Samma had to become fractured first (which was a miracle), so that there would be a “self” that could gaze at the “other.” This is discussed in more detail in the article on snakes.
This is also how Samma reproduces, in spite of being One Thing.
Because Samma is self-similar (much like a fractal), human beings are made in the image of Samma, and so human beings on an individual level are also fractured into many snakes. Often, when first stepping into a shrine or ingesting Samma Flower (or engaging in any spiritual practice that raises self-awareness), the human becomes aware of the snakes for the first time. Upon examination, they may experience the snakes as emotions or even specific memories.
Similarly, humans themselves are snakes and the snakes of a human are also themselves made of more snakes. It is endless in both directions, but Samma exists at the center of all of them. Samma has infinite “centers” and so can exist within any and all snakes while also creating them.
All of these snakes are equally Samma, and so they are holy. Resisting the snakes is self-hatred. Self-hatred is the gravest sin to Samma, as it prevents self-awareness from occurring and blocks the flow of the expansion of consciousness (which is the ultimate goal of Samma). Ironically, resistance also perpetuates the snakes. They can only be dissolved back into Samma with unconditional self-love, which heals all things.
Do not resist your snakes.
Relationship to the Maharan Religion
Middlelanders unknowingly continue to worship Samma through their devotion to the feminine aspect of Samma, the Goddess Mahara. The Flower Cult considers this to be idolatry, however, not only because it involves the literal worship of idols, but because it is an attempt to reduce God to a single image, personality, and set of attributes.
However, members of the Flower Cult do not seek to convert people away from the Maharan religion and often encourage Maharans to dive deeper into the spiritual aspects of their religion. They believe there are many paths to the truth and that each individual is destined to their own. They also believe that reverence of Samma is found in every religion anyway, even if the adherents may not realize.
The biggest spiritual barrier for Maharans, though, is their resistance to snakes. Maharans are taught by priestesses to obsess about that which is “clean” and “unclean” (which is more idolatry), and they are taught by their culture to engage in (self-)judgment and (self-)hatred. This limits many Maharans from experiencing the Gaze of Samma, which would heal them.