Terence McKenna hypothesizes that as the North African jungles receded, giving way to savannas and grasslands near the end of the most recent ice age, a branch of our arboreal primate ancestors left the forest canopy and began living in the open areas beyond. There they experimented with new varieties of foods as they adapted, physically and mentally, to the environment. Among the new foods found in this environment were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing near dung of ungulate herds occupying the savannas and grasslands.
Referencing the research of Roland L. Fisher, McKenna claims the enhancement of visual acuity was an effect of psilocybin at low doses and suggests this would confer adaptive advantage. He argues that the effects of slightly larger doses, including sexual arousal, and in larger doses, ecstatic hallucinations & 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 to primate diets. He hypothesizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of sensory boundaries) 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 human diets. He argues 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.
©1992 Terrence McKenna (P)2012 Tantor
"Deserves to be a modern classic on mind-altering drugs and hallucinogens." (The Washington Post)
This was my first time using an audio edition for non-fiction. I cannot say that it is better than the print version, because I'm one who likes to go back over pithy contents again and again, and that's a bit tough to do with an audio recording. I did learn how to use the bookmarks to mark the places I wanted to return to, but it's still not as easy as marking a print copy and thumbing back to it. I love audio for fiction, but this book introduced a lot of new concepts to me, so it was slow going. Early on I reduced the rate of play to 50%, which had the curious effect of sounding like McKenna himself reading it. Which tells me a lot about McKenna and the effects of his personal explorations: he knew a slower, unhurried and less stressful existence, one that plants themselves might teach.
McKenna's statement that, "If the ego is not regularly and repeatedly dissolved in the unbounded hyperspace of the Transcendent Other, there will always be slow drift away from the sense of self as part of nature's larger whole. The ultimate consequence of this is the fatal ennui that now permeates Western civilization."
There aren't exactly "scenes" in a non-fiction book, but McKenna does begin some chapters with vignettes of daily life in the tribes he is exploring. Each one builds on the last and provides new eye-opening information.
Brilliant, paradigm-shifting, research and reflection on a very important subject.
The best part of audio books is that I can use them when exercising, driving, etc. but I will likely purchase the print or Kindle version of the book as well.
Very High, amazing book!!! great perspective!
you will find here stuff not many people are talking about, this not drug propaganda but a serious reflection of our society and the drugs it prefers and condemn.
the fact sugar and coffee have a full chapter in the history of human compassion of drugs, made me really rethink the whole thing.
Phenomenal depiction of the history of plant usage and the exploration of one's self. The undeniable relationship with nature is one to be shared with the world.
For the record: never done mushrooms and was concerned this would be some rambling hippy-dippy nonsense about pretty colors changing the world. It was none of that. It was far more methodical and scientific and while some of the concepts are no doubt...out there, it became clear the only reason they are still "out there" is because we've brushed this topic under the rug far too long. Whether this topic is uncomfortable for some people or not is noteworthy because books like this get stigmatized as just some guy on drugs. I've stigmatized things this way too. However, I'd say that McKenna is every bit a pioneer as Lewis and Clark and others exploring new frontiers. The only difference is that McKenna's frontier was the human brain and its ability to engage and communicate in alternate but somehow still natural realities. I have no idea if his experiences have legitimacy but what he's documented, analyzed and shared is something that at least deserves far more research. It's fairly well documented how little of our brain capacity we actually use and when you hear what's explained in this book and the history behind some of these plants, any rational person would ask whether topics like this begin to shed light on what is possible with the human brain. If your politics and religious beliefs tell you there's nothing more to learn about the human brain and how we interact with nature, that's fine. There will be a special place in history for you. Bottomline: this entire field of study deserves far more research.
it was a very informative history of conscious altering substance from alcohol sugar caffeine to DMT. The title kind of mislead me. didn't care too much for the narrator but like I said it was a good history lesson
Interesting theories. A lot of heady anthropology and background mixed with a new vision for cultural use of psychoactive plants and substances.
The narrator talks quickly. This made digesting some of the new (to me) vocabulary and names of indigenous people groups difficult.
Disapointment: what I was looking for was a well-researched, anthropological take on the use of psychoactive substances throughout human history; what I got was more like an episode of Ancient Aliens, but with psilocybin as the subject matter. This guy makes some pretty questionable assertions early in the book and then things get worse. I just have one rule: if you're going to say crazy things, back it up with relevant evidence. The crazier you get, the more evidence you need. This book does not follow that rule. The author is in left field and thinks he's playing first. When he brought up the vibrating skull theory I knew I had stumbled on some real cow shit. No shrooms, just shit.
This opened my eyes to the possibilities of a world more beautiful than I had thought possible. As a cynical war veteran it validate some of my suspicions about the real reasons behind our drug war, but the beautiful potential so far outweighs anything negative or cynical it is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to read this knowing a mind as beautiful as McKenna's, so full of wisdom and hope for our species, is buried under our childish understanding of "drugs". This book could save our society. All you need to do is read it.
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