If you buy Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory, we are part of a giant evolutionary human casserole whose base is made of cream of mushroom soup.
McKenna’s theory isn’t one that has gained a lot of support among the scientific community, but one could argue it’s just as plausible as many of the other evolutionary theories, especially when considering superior higher level of consciousness and language development.
McKenna theorizes intelligence might have made its way to our planet via spore-bearing intelligent life that traveled to Earth in cosmic radiation, much like what is described in the Crick Theory of Panspermia.
As some Homo Sapiens left the forests for the plains and began moving throughout Africa after the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, according to McKenna, the species switched to a more omnivorous diet. This switch, led to following herds of animals for food, and subsequently, finding magic mushrooms in poop and adding them to the diet.
Sounds a little looney on the surface, but given the prevalence of psilocybin, or DMT-based concoctions like Ayahuasca, among shaman in cultures with ancient roots, it doesn’t seem so looney that it should be summarily dismissed.
As McKenna has said in interviews since publishing his theory, it’s better understood by those who have actually experienced psilocybin, than it is by the typical lab-coat wearing scientist.
If you’ve ever actually taken mushrooms, not that I have or anything (*Clears throat, diverts attention elsewhere), you know most of the hype in modern pop culture surrounding the trips are exaggerated.
“I saw dragons, the world turned black, I turned gray, my ears stretched two feet above my head, and I had a duck-season-versus-rabbit-season argument with Daffy Duck.”
Maybe. Probably not though.
What is typically experienced is a warping of perception, where the auditory and visual hallucinations occur. The severity of these hallucinations vary based on dosage and potency. On higher doses it can seem as though the user is somewhere other than where they are, and in the right circumstances this sensory overload can result in introspection and the senses are introduced to new experiences. At lower doses, flat objects might develop a third dimension, and be accompanied by light flashes, and color manipulation. Even these reactions are predicated on the mental state of the person taking it.
If you’re big fear is getting caught and punished for using psilocybin because in many places, like the US, it is illegal to use natural chemicals to explore your own psyche, you might experience flashing blue lights reminiscent of those produced by police cars. Again, not something I’ve ever experienced (*Clears throat and apologizes for my hyperactive sinuses).
In McKenna’s theory, he suggests the consumption of 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, and boosted energy. It’s similar to what one might experience after taking a courtesy toke, or two, from a good sativa strain of marijuana.
The improved visual acuity was great for spotting predators, and prey alike, and the auditory acuity, and perhaps even heightened paranoia, the good kind, not the crippling-fear kind, made them more aware of approaching danger.
The real impact did come at higher doses, according to McKenna’s theory, because it was at the higher doses that man was inspired to use sound to put images into another’s head. Language development saw immense growth during this period, and the Stoned Ape Theory insinuates experiences on mushrooms helped further this development along.
This is where our minds were opened up to the abstract concepts which eventually led humanity to become the dominant force in the animal kingdom. Our ability to grasp abstract concepts, communicate them, understand what was communicated, and build on those concepts, became the foundation of our civilization.
This intelligence continued to grow even after environmental shifts made access to mushrooms less common. The seed was already planted, and passed on through genetics and education.
The cream of mushroom soup that passed our genetics from one generation to another was the base layer of the casserole we call humanity today.
The size of the homo sapien brain also grew tremendously 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, man became gardeners, herders, and mostly gave up a nomadic existence.
While McKenna attributes this growth to the magic of mushrooms, some in the scientific community believe the increase in fish as part of the diet was a more dominant factor via the magic of fish oil. Either way, the dietary changes are believed to be a large contributing factor.
How we achieved a level of super-intelligence and higher consciousness when compared to the other animals on the planet, is still a bit of a mystery, and McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory is just one of many which attempt to explain it.
Accurate or not, his theory is at the very least, one of the more interesting theories out there. The theory could get a boost in credibility if the Crick Panspermia Theory is proven to have some merit. if spores can truly travel through space, break through an atmosphere like ours, and still be fruitful, then we could explain our intelligence as being a gift from an alien world.