McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

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McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Luke » Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:07 pm

Do any of you find Terrence McKenna's "stoned ape theory of human evolution" plausible?
I don't know enough about evolutionary biology to have much of an opinion on the issue, except that McKenna's theory is a very entertaining idea! :D

In his book Food of the Gods, McKenna proposed that the transformation from humans' early ancestors Homo erectus to the species Homo sapiens mainly had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis in its diet - an event which according to his theory took place in about 100,000 BC (this is when he believed that the species diverged from the Homo genus). He based his theory on the main effects, or alleged effects, produced by the mushroom. One of the effects that comes about from the ingestion of low doses, which agrees with one of scientist Roland Fischer's findings from the late 1960s-early 1970s, is it significantly improves the visual acuity of humans - so, theoretically, of other human-like mammals too. According to McKenna, this effect would have definitely proven to be of evolutionary advantage to humans' omnivorous hunter-gatherer ancestors that would have stumbled upon it "accidentally"; as it would make it easier for them to hunt.
In higher doses, McKenna claims, the mushroom acts as a sexual stimulator, which would make it even more beneficial evolutionarily, as it would result in more offspring. At even higher doses, the mushroom would have acted to "dissolve boundaries", which would have promoted community-bonding and group sexual activities that would result in a mixing of genes and therefore greater genetic diversity. Generally McKenna believed that the periodic ingestion of the mushroom would have acted to dissolve the ego in humans before it ever got the chance to grow to destructive proportions. In this context, he likened the ego to a cancerous tumor that can grow uncontrollable and become destructive to its host.
The mushroom, according to McKenna, also gave humans their first truly religious experiences and, as he believed, were the basis for the foundation of all subsequent religions to date. For example, he proposed that the biblical Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was actually an entheogenic mushroom. Another factor that McKenna talked about was the mushroom's potency to promote linguistic thinking. This would have promoted vocalisation, which in turn would have acted in cleansing the brain (based on a scientific theory that vibrations from speaking cause the precipitation of impurities from the brain to the cerebrospinal fluid), which would further mutate the brain. All these factors according to McKenna were the most important factors that promoted evolution towards the Homo sapiens species. After this transformation took place, the species would have begun moving out of Africa to populate the rest of the planet. Later on, this theory by McKenna was given the name "The 'Stoned Ape' Theory of Human Evolution".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_McKenna
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby KeithBC » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:49 pm

My impression from reading McKenna's writing is that he was a good example of the merit of observing the Fith Precept. :)

Food of the Gods is one of his less wild works, but when I read that passage, my thought was," Interesting. Maybe, but probably not."

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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby smcj » Sun Dec 15, 2013 5:17 pm

Sounds more like "stoned intellectual's theory" to me. McKenna felt like there was something important about the psychedelic experience. In order to validate it as important he looked for some objective contribution it has made to mankind. Not seeing any, he gave free reign to his imagination and came up with a hypothetical contribution in pre-history. That's all.

Nice try Terrence.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby oushi » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:22 pm

One thing that is hard to negate, is the fact that psychoactive substances had their role in human development. Were they as important as Terence claimed? Hard to tell, but easy to imagine.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Dec 16, 2013 2:47 pm

Hm. I'm pretty sure I can provide a definitive answer on this, but I will need some research material. Therefore send me all your psychedelic mushrooms immediately. However please keep the apes.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby reddust » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:56 pm

Cats love catnip and I've noticed our deer get pretty frisky eating certain fermented rotten prunes….I think the Stoned Ape Theory could be true. Probably why we mixed it up with all sorts of hominids…..Who doesn't like a good high?
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:09 pm

smcj wrote:Sounds more like "stoned intellectual's theory" to me. McKenna felt like there was something important about the psychedelic experience. In order to validate it as important he looked for some objective contribution it has made to mankind. Not seeing any, he gave free reign to his imagination and came up with a hypothetical contribution in pre-history. That's all.

Nice try Terrence.

:good:
Best response so far.

There are all sorts of problems with McKenna's "theory" (and I put it in quotes because a *real* scientific theory is falsifiable and his isn't).
One little one: as reddust has noted, you don't have to be proto-human to get stoned. Round here the parrots get so drunk on fermenting fruit that they can't fly straight - sometimes can't fly at all.

:namaste:
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:20 am

Although, I think we would all have to admit, he was an all around nice chap. Hoopie frood, you know?
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:40 am

What is his evidence for the theory that Homo erectus ingested psylocibin mushrooms?
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby tomamundsen » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:19 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:What is his evidence for the theory that Homo erectus ingested psylocibin mushrooms?

There is no evidence. His is talking about something that happened ca. 100,000 B.C. so it is naturally quite difficult to find any kind of evidence. It is all just speculation.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:41 pm

Is there any evidence that psylocibin mushrooms even existed as a genus in 100,000 BC? Anyway, just because psylocibin produces specific effects in modern humans does not mean it will have the same effect on a prehistoric hominid. PCP (aka Angel Dust), for example, acts as a tranquiliser in animals but when ingested by humans...
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby smcj » Tue Dec 17, 2013 7:05 pm

Poor Terrence. He so wanted to validate psychedelics as significant in some way, shape or form. For us Buddhists he serves as a cautionary tale of what it is to be stuck in a karmic cul-de-sac.

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Although, I think we would all have to admit, he was an all around nice chap.

He was smart, funny, sincere and all that. I'm sure he'd have been good company. Just misguided, that's all.
Hoopie frood, you know?

"Hoopie frood"?
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby oushi » Tue Dec 17, 2013 7:43 pm

smcj wrote:I'm sure he'd have been good company. Just misguided, that's all.

In the same way, I can say that you are misguided, or anyone... even HHDL. Fortunately, I see absolutely no reason in saying such thing. Tolerance, practice tolerance.
Terence was an unique person, with incredible knowledge and brilliant mind. His ability to verbalize his experiences was amazing, and the spectrum of those, incredibly broad. His sharp reasoning cannot be overlooked by anyone who listened even few minutes of his talks. He was maneuvering over mental spheres most of us have no idea about. To say he was misguided is pure insinuation, told with evil intention, just to degrade his insights.
He did some crazy stunts, with all kinds of stuff, and brilliantly verbalized it. Most of us would faint half the way, and those remaining ones wouldn't remember shit from those trip, as you have to learn how to use your memory in those states. And you may not know, but it's not always a pleasant thing to trip on drugs. They often pulled straws to select one team member that will take the drug they were testing. Nobody wanted to do it.

We should be grateful for his work, whether we believe it or now, as he was kind enough to share his insights openly. He went to places few can travel, and brought back detailed stories, like probe to mars. Most of them sound like fairy tales for adults, but that does not mean they are worthless.
Moreover, he was always full of care and love for fellow humans and nature, promoting inter-being constantly. His talks were always aiming to ease suffering and release people from mental bondage.
Misguided behavior?
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:03 pm

Here's an interesting discussion about the 'stoned ape theory' between Joe Rogan and Graham Hancock, the topic comes up around 1:10:00

Last edited by asunthatneversets on Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:07 pm

And some more... Joe Rogan talking about the Stoned Ape theory and the evolution of Humans. Taken from his The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast #79 with Redban And Jon Lajoie:

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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby smcj » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:34 pm

To say he was misguided is pure insinuation, told with evil intention, just to degrade his insights.

We should be grateful for his work, whether we believe it or now, as he was kind enough to share his insights openly. He went to places few can travel, and brought back detailed stories, like probe to mars. Most of them sound like fairy tales for adults, but that does not mean they are worthless.
(formatting mine)
You repeatedly say he has insights, and that they have worth. Would you care to specify which of his insights have worth? I assume you are not going to reference his idea that if you hum a certain note that a magical cosmic goo will appear and fulfill all your wishes, like the genie in the lamp without the 3 wish limit.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby oushi » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:56 pm

smcj wrote:Would you care to specify which of his insights have worth?

All of them, in a sense. Some are low hanging fruits, some are incredibly difficult to comprehend ideas. But the main worth of his insights can be found on a social level, when he speaks about the ecological interference between human beings and the rest of the nature. Shortly speaking, how we are destroying the planet through ignorance of separateness and an idea of independence from the rest of the world.
smcj wrote:I assume you are not going to reference his idea that if you hum a certain note that a magical cosmic goo will appear and fulfill all your wishes, like the genie in the lamp without the 3 wish limit.

No matter how amazing it sounds, it still cannot beat the actions performed by the Buddha in some Mahayana sutras. I personally am skeptic about all miraculous things, but on the other hand, I know how perception can change and how the meaning of concepts may shift. It's a really crazy world out there, but it exists. Terence went there, and brought back what he experience. Mind is a wish fulfilling gem, you will find such statements even in Buddhist teachings.

Here, few words of the misguided one:
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby Lindama » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:09 pm

smcj wrote:
To say he was misguided is pure insinuation, told with evil intention, just to degrade his insights.

We should be grateful for his work, whether we believe it or now, as he was kind enough to share his insights openly. He went to places few can travel, and brought back detailed stories, like probe to mars. Most of them sound like fairy tales for adults, but that does not mean they are worthless.
(formatting mine)
You repeatedly say he has insights, and that they have worth. Would you care to specify which of his insights have worth? I assume you are not going to reference his idea that if you hum a certain note that a magical cosmic goo will appear and fulfill all your wishes, like the genie in the lamp without the 3 wish limit.


what is the problem with appreciating a lifetime's work as a significant exploration. And, where did you find the genie? It's probably too soon to get a perspective except by a few... so it goes with what is on the edge of discovery... a tree in a vast forest
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby smcj » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:25 pm

And, where did you find the genie?

The magical cosmic goo came from a book on tape, read by McKenna himself. He thought that if he hummed a certain note it would cancel out the heat waves around him and the temperature would drop to absolute zero, at which point the magical cosmic goo would appear. It was playing at a friend's house, so I don't remember which book it was from.

Mind is a wish fulfilling gem, you will find such statements even in Buddhist teachings.

Actually the traditional teaching is that the opportunity to practice Dharma is more valuable than a wish fulfilling gem. It does not say that mind is a wish-fulfilling jewel per se. Now if one does not immediately dismiss such an idea as Asian trash, the thought may occur, "How is that so? If you can wish for anything you can imagine, what could be better than that?" So the point of the teaching is that Dharma practice is better than anything you can imagine, and that imagination itself is limiting--regardless of how spectacular an imagining it may create.

*****************************************

Terrence had some really wonderful personal qualities, one of which was an honesty and sincerity. At one point he said, "I'm either really on to something or else I'm totally delusional. There is no middle ground." Well, ok Terrence, that's an interesting question. How do you propose to go about finding out? He didn't. He just bought into his experiences as valid.

A more productive course of investigation would be to follow that question, but not just concerning the psychedelic state. Perhaps the normal sober state were delusional too? How would one go about determining that? Would one not, at an initial phase, investigate the validity of one's own experience? And if the normal sober state were delusional, wouldn't one begin to see through it, and see that the sober 'self' is a temporary, and therefore unessential, configuration of energies? Since the psychedelic experience shows the relative nature of the sober experience, I believe that the buddhist approach to investigating these questions is the correct insight to gain from those experiences. Psychedelic delusions are no more better than sober ones, although a lot more dramatic and entertaining. That's where Terrence went wrong.
Last edited by smcj on Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory

Postby reddust » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:29 pm

I've read in a scientific article I can't find that all sorts of herb particles were found in Nederthals teeth, or some other kind of hominid …. And we humans are mutts, we are are mix of all sorts of types of human like creatures. I just bet many pre-human types got stoned and saw a sexy looking gal that may not of been exactly like his own folks but close enough and, wham-bang-thankya-mam, mutt baby in nine months, who knows the mixing of traits might of been a good thing! Diet

I just noticed this is a thread about mind altering herbs. I have no doubt this played a big part in the evolution of religions. However most of my mind bending experiences, except for that one time I took magic mushrooms and ended up hugging a tree and praying to the sun all day, were done totally straight, sitting there watching my breath, minding my own business. Suddenly a little light shows up and I am sucked into it tripping across the universe.

Bill Hicks, Positive Drug Story, with some cursing, hey man it's just a ride
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