Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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Because we have been waiting for you for a decade


Alan Hindle illustration

One of the strongest platforms of the religious right’s Intelligent Design debate is that man popped on to the scene too quick and fully formed to not be a divine creation. On Tuesday we had monkeys, on Wednesday we had people in leopard skin loincloths playing tennis. What could account for such a rapid and complex “evolution”? Nothing, therefore it must be that God wanted a game of doubles and so he invented human beings. However, a fascinating theory is gathering steam that supports rapid advanced evolution and pisses off prudish ignoramuses. The theory is elegant, rigorous, impossible to dismiss and seriously funny. What caused the great leap in the human mind that brought us down from the trees so we could chop them up for hardwood floors in condominiums?

Magic mushrooms.

Picture the scene and boggle at the obvious possibilities: A gaggle of chimps are out for a night on the town; well during the afternoon, obviously, because there are no towns yet and leopards wander around at night. The monkeys come across a pile of shit left by a wildebeest or some prehistoric equivalent. Growing out of the shit heap are mushrooms, pale bluish purple ones stretching up to the sun. Monkeys will eat pretty tmuch anything, so they settle down to nosh and pretty soon the magic starts to happen. Colours, shapes, psychedelic visions based on past experiences and learning patterns. “The whole fucking universe man, it’s all around us!” Shouts one monkey and they all start hugging each other. Eventually the effect wears off. The monkeys, curious things they are, eat more mushrooms, or search for more, and whenever they happen to find more, they partake. Mind altering drugs, as anyone who’s ever taken them knows, especially those who take them often, influence and even actually restructure synaptic pathways. A mind expanded remains expanded, and unless overuse permanently damages the brain, it can develop into a holistic viewpoint, which changes or completely recreates a lifestyle. If monkeys, millions of years ago, took magic mushrooms on a regular basis, their expanded consciousness and experiential intercommunication with fellow users in the tribe could have caused the jumpstart on the evolution of what would finally become the human mind.

Stropharia Cubensis is a mushroom rich in both psilocybin and psilon, both part of the tryptamine family of naturally occurring drugs, the latter being the actual alkaloid compound that the former breaks down and converts in the digestive system, causing psychedelic experiences. It grows easily across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia in manure piles of grazing animals. Between 0.25 to one gram of the dried mushroom causes mild effects in most people, while 2.5 grams produces a generally strong reaction, and anything after 3.5 can create overwhelming hallucinations. Fresh and you got the shit, baby. Experiences include sensations of channeling, vivid dreams, premonitions, euphoria, ecstasy and out-of-body experiences. An additional, peculiar quirk associated with taking stropharia cubensis is the sense of communicating with fellow users is heightened. Also, stropharia is one of the enthogenic drugs, which means it creates in the user the feeling of being “in God” or divinely inspire

Monkeys can’t count. They don’t use scales. They don’t buy bananas by the pound. Chances are the chimps just scarfed down endless handfuls of fungus and then twenty minutes later went to the moon. It’s almost impossible to overdose on mushrooms short of eating your own body weight in shrooms. There can be lasting damage if taken excessively, but there exists in all animals, not just humans, an attraction, or at least a strange compulsion, to indulge in self-destructive behaviour even when, after repeated binges/crashes they should know better. Animals in the wild can indulge in eating things that bring on altered states of consciousness without the cognitive facility to say “Wow! What a hangover! And all these bruises! I’m never doing that stupid thing again. Except this Friday because it’s my birthday.” Usually, in the animal kingdom, situations that cause pain or discomfort are avoided. Yet, like people, animals are known frequently to return to naturally occurring foods containing drug and drug-like substances. Noah supposedly discovered wine by watching goats get happy eating bundles of grapes full of proto-alcohols. In lab experiments (hideous, yes, but let’s just focus on the information now and rail over animal rights later) rabbits, squirrels, monkeys, rats and Roxy regulars offered cocaine would soon prefer Charlie over lettuce, even though the normal route of an animal is to avoid unhealthy, dangerous situations. Unlike humans, they have no li’l devil on their shoulder saying “G’wan, you can sleep in tomorrow!” There simply exists in living creatures a propensity for attaining a state of altered awareness despite potential self-destructive results.

Poppy seeds have been found in countless caves once occupied by Neolithic peoples. Shaman from every “primitive” society in the world possess encyclopedic knowledge of whatever natural drugs exist in their environment (or, like the houngan “voodoo Doctors” from West Africa brought to the Americas over centuries of colonial slave-trading, transplanted the chemically active plants from their native land to another) and can concoct stuff to make a pharmacologist blush. The use of psychedelic drugs, for both spiritual and recreational purposes, exists in every single culture in the history of the world. Except the Inuit, who couldn’t grow anything and had to settle for snorting snow. For as long as there have been people there have been people taking drugs, and since frequent instances have been noted of animals in the wild, including monkeys, eating drug-like substances regardless of available food supplies, it can be assumed they have always done so, for millions of years. Unless you don’t believe the world has been around for millions of years. Intelligent Design theorists at least pretend they do.

The idea that monkeys exploded their cosmic awareness through shrooms a million years ago and jumpstarted evolution doesn’t necessarily dismiss God’s guiding hand. After all, He made mushrooms, too. Maybe the button He pushed to make humanity was actually the button of a mushroom cap. Regardless, it pisses off the right and that makes it good science.

  1. Cameron

    hey alan.
    can you teach me to be amazing. - Sep 15, 09:31 pm

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