by Alex Vikoulov
"The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of language. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish." - Terence McKenna
In his book Food of the Gods: the Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: a Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution, Terence McKenna crafts his carefully thought out theory proposing that our pre-human primate ancestors consumed psilocybin mushrooms for thousands of years, and this is the primary reason humanity’s evolution rapidly accelerated — launching us forward in the animal kingdom. Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory is more plausible than it sounds -- especially in context of the emergence of human mind and language development.
As our distant ancestors left the forests for the grasslands and began moving throughout Africa after the last ice age, about 18,000 years ago, the species switched to a more omnivorous diet, which included psilocybin mushrooms. A variety of mushroom spores were found embedded in the dental remains of an 18,700 year old prehistoric woman. Researchers discovered microscopic evidence that the upper paleolithic woman had been nibbling “sponge capped, bolete mushrooms and gilled mushrooms from the Agaric group.” Thus, these ‘special’ mushrooms were definitively part of the stone-age diet.
In McKenna’s theory, the consumption of hallucinogenic psilocybin was done in small doses, where the effect doesn’t quite reach the point of hallucination, but instead reaches the point of heightened senses, such as visual acuity. This enhancement of vision would have helped our ancestors hunt, gather food, and detect predators.
At a medium dose, psilocybin acts as an aphrodisiac -- creates a sense of restlessness and sexual arousal. This would have increased instances of successful copulation, i.e. sexual reproduction which is the main game in evolution.
At higher doses, according to McKenna, in glossolalia-induced states of mind members of the group were inspired and compelled to use vocal sounds to communicate images to their tribesmen. The Stoned Ape Theory suggests that experience on magic mushrooms was the major contributing factor to the fast development of language during that period.
Video Credit: Koi Fresco - The Stoned Ape Theory
McKenna's theory remains one of the most controversial, but fascinating and what it actually boils down to is that a new psychoactive chemical was introduced to a species, and over millennia, this chemical, that functions as a neurotransmitter, had a drastic effect on the evolutionary trajectory of that species. One thing is for sure, we would not be who we are today if Earth had not prepared us for the next evolutionary leap and given us a chance to eat our way to higher consciousness.
The improved visual acuity, sex drive, and use of language gave early humans a tremendous evolutionary advantage over other hominid species. The size of the homo sapien neocortex (new addition to the mammalian brain) grew substantially during the 6,000 years following the last ice age. Over the course of the next few thousand years, starting around 12,000 years ago, early humans became gardeners, herders, and mostly gave up their nomadic existence.
Besides survival, reproduction and language, these boundary-dissolving experiences would have created a sense of intimacy and deepened an overall group cohesion. This pack bonding has definitely led to a distinct evolutionary advantage over other non-mushroom-eating species. At higher doses, individual and group consciousness would have deepened and expanded, as this would create bizarre, transpersonal, and unitive states of consciousness. One can see that perhaps this is where ritual first developed - bringing logic and imagination together as well as seeding human culture.
Video Credit: EtherealExposition - Terence McKenna Evolution
As anthropology shows us, ritualistic shamanism, which uses visionary plants, was humanity’s first form of spirituality, as shamanism went on for thousands of years before widespread organized religion - the oldest cave paintings we know of depicting shamanic mushroom use date back to 7,000 BC in Africa. Because of these intense psychedelic, imaginative experiences, pulling our ancestors outside their familiar environment and into hallucinogenic ecstasy, they would have eventually formed intersubjective myths (today we call them "memes") to make sense of their emerging reality.
Setting aside our current stigmas around drugs, it seems plausible that our evolution — not only including biological development, but cognition and self-reflective awareness as well — was propelled forward by a change in primate diets, one that included the introduction of a psychoactive compound. As for the origins of culture and religion, when we integrate the scientific evidence collected on studies of psilocybin, we find the high probability that psilocybin can trigger a profound spiritual experience, given the right setting —and what can be a better setting than out in nature under the open night skies around the bonfire with fellow tribesmen.
Video Credit: Terence McKenna on his Stoned Ape Theory
This is where our minds were opened up to the abstract concepts which eventually led humanity out the animal kingdom into the category of its own. Our ability to grasp abstract concepts, communicate them, understand what was communicated, and build on those concepts, became the foundation of our civilization.
- by Alex Vikoulov
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Tags: ecstadelic, psychedelic, psychedelic experience, psiloybin, human evolution, Terence McKenna, Stoned Ape Theory, shamanism, ritualistic shamanism, psiloyibin mushrooms, magic mushrooms, glossolalia, language development, upper paleolithic age, hallucinogenic ecstasy, evolutionary tool, origins of human mind, spirituality, cultural memes, psychodelics experience, spiritual experience, boundary dissolution
*Image Credit: Envato Studio/ Crysfx
About the Author:
Alex Vikoulov is an evolutionary extrapolist, transhumanist philosopher, futurist, founder of Ecstadelic Media, painter and media artist, author of "The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind's Evolution". Graduated in 1999 from Armstrong University, Berkeley, CA. Lives in Burlingame, California (San Francisco Bay Area).7