Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terence Mckenna - The Archaic Revival

Perhaps the most famous of Terence McKenna's theories and observations is his explanation for the origin of modern human consciousness and culture. 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 near 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)[14] [15] [16] [17], 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[citation needed]) — 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.

McKenna did not attempt to defend his hypotheses through rigorous scientific evidence; he consciously self-identified as a type of shaman, or ethnobotanist. McKenna and his followers view his theories as speculation that is at a minimum scientifically feasible and arguably gifted by special knowledge due to psychedelic plants. His hypothesis that psilocybin induced a phase change in human evolution is necessarily based on a great deal of speculation that interpolates between the few fragmentary facts we know about hominid and early human development, but he argued that the ability to metabolize any dietary component could, in principle, confer a selective advantage. Many[who?] find this explanation implausible, as it suggests a Lamarckian interpretation of evolution wherein acquired secondary characteristics (e.g. an adaptave advantage resulting from consuming a hallucinogen) are assumed to be propagated genetically. However, McKenna also suggests that the cultural pattern of the mushroom-using primates is transformed through this process as well (great-horned-mushroom-goddess religion). In this light, it is arguable that culture and language would have been the medium of transference, rather than genetics. This view is widely rejected in contemporary evolutionary biology. A live recording of his "Stoned Ape" hypothesis can be found on the CD, "Conversations on the Edge of Magic" (recorded live at the Starwood Festival).

[edit] Novelty theory and "Time Wave: Zero Point"
Main article: Novelty theory
One of McKenna's ideas is known as novelty theory. It predicts the ebb and flow of novelty in the universe as an inherent quality of time. McKenna developed the theory in the mid-1970s after his experiences in the Amazon at La Chorrera led him to closely study the King Wen sequence of the I-Ching. Novelty theory involves ontology, extropy, and eschatology.

The theory proposes that the universe is an engine designed for the production and conservation of novelty.

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