[dropcap type=”3″]I[/dropcap]n my play, Unnatural Selection, I explore the possible roots of human-kinds existence. At the core, it is a question of the mind.
There may be nothing I find more interesting than human consciousness. And one of the biggest questions is most often: where did it come from?
Evolution would be the easiest answer. It could be argued that it was just the culmination of millions of years of adaptation to our environment, that we are just another animal that found its niche.
Certainly we are animals in form, a fact too many ‘humans’ seem to forget. Then again, our ability to see into the past, plan for future, and imagine possibilities beyond mere survival have endowed us with that gift of consciousness that does seem to transcend the common definition of: animal. No other species that we’re aware of has this marvel of biology, this consciousness, to the degree of which we have it.
From the wheel and fire to space stations and virtual reality, we’ve taken our capacity for imagination and creativity and created technologies that utilize the resources of our environment in ways that give us unbelievable power. This ability is further empowered exponentially with the inclusion of language and the written word. The ability to define things with words–to place them on an external landscape that exist outside of our mind– allowed us to share ideas and observe them objectively, and through this we unlocked the unbelievably potent power of accumulated knowledge.
Is this profound ability something that evolution can claim to have created alone? Can it claim sole manifestation of these world shaping powers of imagination and language? Was it just a matter of time for the animal wondering the forest to learn to shape grunts into different meanings: one grunt predator, two grunts food, etc…
I could argue yes, but only if we are sure to include the caveat that, in my personal definition, evolution includes the drastic effect diet played in the rise of this cultural glue.
And not just any diet. As I mentioned in Food Becomes Self–How food defines you, the food we eat is crucial to the formation of our physical selfs. This is true not only in a modern, day-to-day life sense, but also in an evolutionary sense in regards to a species. To its consciousness.
Especially in the case of the ape and a specific plant…
A psychedelic (psilocybin) mushroom. A plant that, from my understanding, has three core abilities depending on amount consumed:
1) increased sexuality : which results in more mating, energy, genetic variety, and thus progression of genes
2) Heightened visual acuity : an increase ability to see movement, and thus hunt better and escape predators more easily–and thus progression of genes.
3) an increase in the language-forming region of the brain : the discovery of vocal cords ability to have variance and thus words.
It is believed, in some circles, that the apes who ingested the psychadelic mushrooms are the ones who evolved into humans.
This idea is my own interpretation of Terrance Mckenna’s “Stoned Ape” theory. It is the idea that as apes wandering the world, we once happened upon these psilocybin mushrooms. It seems only natural that at one point, a group of hungry apes came upon a mushroom, and not knowing what it was, ate it in the hopes of gaining some sustenance or out pure animalistic curiosity. Some apes died. Some lived. Those that lived grew a resistance to its toxic effects and a heightened ability to digest the strange plant.
And with the added affects of the drug as mentioned above, that ape population became the dominant line of evolution. They carried on this ability to handle the plants unique power and learn from it.
Further, the theory goes on to suggest that the plants not only give the abilities that aid survival, but as allow the ape form spirituality by dissolving the ego and create a foundation for figuring out how to explain the surreal, profound, and wonderfully strange experience the mushrooms had.
Continuing with ideas shared by Terrance Mckenna, and once more twisting them to my own understanding, I think the mushrooms did even more. I think they gave the apes, the emerging humans, the ability to glimpse inside themselves–perhaps into their soul/unconscious–perhaps into the collective unconscious as a whole, or perhaps even into the truth of the universe. It was these insights that gave rise to the creativity, to the ability to send the mind into places that aren’t your current reality. These plants rewired the apes brain to entertain the inner world, rather than just the outer. And when survival is no longer a haunting spectre, one becomes free to relax the mind and it a lot it to build combinations of thoughts that have never had time to mingle prior. And thus begins a mind that comtemplates beyond the moment, into images movies of the past that can be learned from, and inner-eye movies of future that can be imagined based on our past teachings.
And thus we think that stone could become a wheel. We think bones could become knifes. Rocks hit together can make fire. We start experimenting–IMAGINING!–and thus consciousness starts to came into play. A place for stories that don’t exist at the moment, but that once did, or ones that, with enough planning, could exist in our near future. But the consciousness is not unbounded. It comtemplates everything. Tells a story for everything. Even the story of self. And some of the stories are so good, so convincing, so comforting, that we’re willing to believe them even if they don’t make sense. And in some case, we may not even know it was a story to begin with. Then we grow up in societies that tell us people live in the sky, and their enemies will burn you from under the ground. Stories that add so many layers of unfounded-truths to reality that we began to forget that reality exist here, in the moment. But again, consciousness knows no bounds, and it must imagine all the stories, give them all credence.
And perhaps this is how, through the digestion of a psychedelic plant, consciousness came into existence.
Perhaps the universe purposefully created this food so that we might see through the physical veil and into the world that lay beyond.
Or maybe we were never meant to survive the mushrooms toxins.
Or maybe nothing is ever meant to be, and the universe just unfolds as chaos sees fit.