Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Magic of it All

Today, AP is reporting on the long lasting health benefits of psilocybin. Terrence McKenna believed humanity owes its evolution, or at least the reason or inciting incident, to psilocybin.
"McKenna theorized that as the North African jungles receded, near the end of the most recent ice age, giving way to savannas and grasslands, a branch of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors left the forest canopy and began to live in the open areas outside of the forest. There they experimented with new varieties of foods as they adapted, physically and mentally, to their new environment.
Among the new food items found in this new environment were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in the dung of ungulate herds that occupied the savannas and grasslands at that time. McKenna, referencing the research of Roland L. Fisher, Ph.D. (College of Optometry and Departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University), claimed that enhancement of visual acuity was an effect of psilocybin at low doses, and supposed that this would have conferred an adaptive advantage. He also argued that the effects of slightly larger doses, including sexual arousal (not reported as a typical effect in scientific studies) — and in still larger doses, ecstatic hallucinations and glossolalia — gave selective evolutionary advantages to members of those tribes who partook of it. There were many changes caused by the introduction of this psychoactive mushroom to the primate diet. McKenna hypothesizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of boundaries between the senses) caused by psilocybin led to the development of spoken language: the ability to form pictures in another person's mind through the use of vocal sounds.
About 12,000 years ago, further climate changes removed psilocybin-containing mushrooms from the human diet. McKenna argued that this event resulted in a new set of profound changes in our species as we reverted to the previous brutal primate social structures that had been modified and/or repressed by frequent consumption of psilocybin."
So what will the new climate changes deliver to this hapless race? Less of the brutal primate? Maybe, maybe, fingers crossed. The dung of ungulate herds is still around. It's astonishing. Evolution proceeds. The crush of oppression versus the expansion of freedom on the omnipotent see-saw of human desire. Afraid? why not? Unafraid? Just as well. My mantra? No one's in charge. Ingest as you will.

Glossolalia: glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly .... Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language.
In other words ....

So If I'm understanding this correctly, "ecstatic hallucinations and glossolalia give selective evolutionary advantages?" Sign me up.


Anonymous Joe said...

Interesting. Leonard Shlain, the author of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, posits that a signed language was the precursor to spoken language. He does not mention hallucinogenic substances in that book, but I wonder if the other books do.

Never tried anything harder than alcohol, myself.

1/7/08 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

psilocybin is the only psychedelic drug i found has had lasting value for me. a lot of "controversial" insights become obviously facts of reality. there is sometimes a divide between those who have and haven't because of this. i love McKenna's theories in Food of the Gods.

1/7/08 6:47 PM  
Blogger jm said...

Alcohol is actually one of the hardest ones.

Fascinating on the language thing. I hadn't thought of the transference of pictures and it's a lot to ponder.

1/7/08 9:28 PM  
Blogger jm said...

there is sometimes a divide between those who have and haven't because of this.

You're not kidding anon.

I'm entranced with this theory and I knew nothing of McKenna. I must find out more. An area of great interest for me. Food of the Gods. I'm going to order it from my library right now.

I think all the antidotes for our ills, plus spiritual information, are in the plants of the earth. It's amazing that the receptors for these substances are already in our brains, with more to be discovered.

They're rediscovering the incredible therapeutic value of hallucinogens. They are all so unique. I find psilocybin to have a lightness of spirit while, mescaline goes into the roots of the earth, but as a musician, they both connect to the rhythm of the universe. Quite a sensation.

I'm curious about those "controversial" insights. I wonder if they are only accessible through the substances.

I also think there are psychedelic substances in small doses in the things we commonly ingest. The fine line between medicine and poison.

It looks like they are becoming legal again, cannabis certainly is, maybe a sign of spiritual evolution ahead.

1/7/08 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

While you're at it, jm, another good book is The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. :o) I promise you'll like it.

2/7/08 4:20 AM  
Blogger m.p.k said...

Another interesting theory of McKenna's is Timewave. It correlates independently with the Mayan Calendar enddate.


2/7/08 10:23 AM  
Blogger jm said...

The Botany of Desire is on its way to me. I'll have it in a couple of days.

Surprising that I missed McKenna but I'm not really up on the Mayan followers and all the new predictions. The Mayans were drunk on their asses all the time, so I have some doubts. I lost track after Ken Kesey and the rest of them. We were less apocalyptic back then and more into pleasure as I recall. Lots of music and interesting snacks. Colors. And quite a bit of laughter. The world didn't need our tampering. You know, dropouts and all.

But this guy's theories are artistic and imaginative.

2/7/08 2:04 PM  
Blogger jm said...

This is interesting...

McKenna interpreted the fractal nature and resonances of the wave, as well as his theory of the I Ching's artificial arrangement, to show that the events of any given time are recursively related to the events of other times.

The I Ching is my book. My only source of divination which I approach with great respect and use sparingly.

Originally McKenna had chosen the end of the calendar by looking for a very novel event in recent history, and using this as the beginning of the final 67.29 year cycle; the event he chose was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

Very interesting. I use Hiroshima as a major marking point in evolution, although not with precise mathematics. I'm still working on my theory which has something to do with the discovery of Pluto. The recent reduction to dwarf-planet status fascinates me.

The alternate time frames are almost a given now but I think we are far from knowing their exactness. Hallucinogens are definitely a window into these dimensions, although I think some of these political discussions are nearing this "unreal" realm too.:-)

The whole question of relativity is still open it seems. How anything relates to anything else is the ongoing question. I love the addition of other times in the metaphysical sense. The whole thing is a series of waves, is it not, even if particles are involved? Are we oppressed by the notion of precise patterning or delighted by the concept of random motion. That would determine our perceptions. Enjoyable thoughts. The battle between wanting order and demanding chaos. Are we supposed to know the answers?

Back to analog and digital, one of my favorite subjects.

2/7/08 2:32 PM  
Blogger jm said...


Mr. McKenna combined a leprechaun's wit with a poet's sensibility to brew a New Age stew with ingredients including flying saucers, elves and the I Ching. The essential seasoning was the psychedelic mushrooms that transformed his life and that he recommended -- in "heroic doses" -- for virtually everyone.

Heroic doses! He had a reckless Mars in Sagittarius shooting him into the cosmos. Maybe that would be good for everyone.:-)

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead called him "the only person who has made a serious effort to objectify the psychedelic experience."

Oh yeah. Good luck.

I must look into the I Ching connection.

2/7/08 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love mushrooms. I take them about twice a year; for some reason they cement my desire to be compassionate towards others. I understand their therapeutic use, I think.

2/7/08 8:48 PM  
Blogger jm said...

Excellent. A semi-annual visit with the galactic physician.

3/7/08 3:00 AM  

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