Now Playing: Zephyr "Sunset" something
There's a 10-part interview with Dennis McKenna on Youtube where he describes a new theory of neuro-evolution (or similar heading). Obviously something that would interest me, and it was an hour well-spent. Dennis was in good form, more verbal and extrovert than I've heard him elsewhere, and the interviewer did a good job of throwing really big issues in the air for Dennis to catch best he could. Much is said, and I'm only going to concentrate on one aspect here.
The new theory turns out not to be Dennis' as much as belonging to Tony Wright and Graham Gynn, authors of Left In The Dark (2008). They cover a lot of ground including sharp criticism of the modern way of life, which is described as a degeneration. This has come about from a change in diet from the fruit and vegetables of the rain forest to the meat and grains of the pastoral grassland lifestyle, which we today are an extension of. This diet has favored the growth of the left brain hemisphere, whereas the right hemisphere had a much stronger position, or was in fact in control, in an earlier stage of evolution. The importance of the diet is related to the various neurally active compounds that enter the human organism when we eat, where the authors state that psycho-active neurotransmitters were a much larger part of the original diet.
The most interesting part of this theory is the suggestion that this diet had an evolutionary impact--not via DNA or Darwinistic adaptation, but through an epigenetic process where the neurochemically rich diet of the pregnant woman was carried over to the womb and affecting the foetus towards a more right-brained configuration. A few generations of this diet-based evolution in a stabile local biosphere would lead to the creation of a whole clan of human or hominids displaying the attributes of a right-sided thinker. And by right-brained we mean psychedelic, among other things.
With the migration out of the jungle onto the savannah and grasslands, the diet was profoundly changed, and the presence of the important neurotransmitters reduced to little or nothing. Man evolved technologically, perhaps due to his left brain getting room to express itself, and this seeming progress also contributed to the evolutionary downgrading of the artistic, visionary and free-spirited being which had preceded him. And at our current point, we are probably further away from the psychedelicized hominid we once were than ever before. Except, of course, for a few million people who use psychedelics.
This summary was based on McKennas rap and isn't intended to cover the book mentioned above, but it's sufficient for my purposes. The theoretical model matches the one I present in Psychedelia in several places, not least so in the suggestion that man once had superior mental abilities which were lost over time, but can be re-accessed through the use of psychedelic drugs (neural agents). Dennis McKenna mentions telepathy as one such ability that may have existed among a tribe of cerebrally enhanced herbivores; I suspect he uses this example as telepathy is so blatantly common among people who take solid doses of psychedelics.
In Psychedelia I speculated that this and other mental gifts which no longer exist among humans (synaesthesia is another case, as is profound visionary abilities) had been brought here through so-called panspermia, meaning alien organic matter carried by meteorites. Panspermia is a big deal among psychedelicists, partly because the visionary content of the trip often hints in that direction; Michael Harner's early ayahuasca vision offers a classic example. The panspermic event, or events, can help explain certain mysteries jumps in the early evolution of life which the scientists wrestle with. My suggestion is that an evolutionary path was ignited where new species carried in their DNA the potential for an advanced being, not least in terms of its cerebral faculties. However, the environment on the planet did not favor this evolutionary path at all, and so these higher abilities--like, again, telepathy--never got the chance to be expressed, or were expressed but then lost through a Darwinistic process. The natural environment may have required maximal attention on survival and safety issues, which would downgrade everything else, and instead foster a being strongly dominated by physical traits.
Closing this cycle of theorizing I suggest that the current impact of tryptamine plant drugs and the extraordinary yet curiously similar experiences they trigger is due to the DMT or psilocybin unlocking ancient regions of the brain and for a short time allowing their potential to be played out. I connect this with the triune brain hypothesis, so that the reptile brain is temporarily unlocked by the flood of neurotransmitters, its unusual abilities rapidly integrated into the total mindstream. There is more on the detailed operations of this state in my Psychedelia book, partly inspired by anthropologist Michael Winkelman's useful theory on psycho-integration.
The point of my model is that these abilities, which we might consider super-human, do in fact exist within us, but have never been genetically expressed due to evolutionary priorities. The theory that Dennis McKenna references says instead that these abilities were in fact brought into the human organism from our environment, and furthermore they were at some point fully expressed--telepathy and synaesthesia and other, more baroque mental gifts did exist among the early humans as an aquired trait. This model suggests that we can now recreate the right-braining process by adding the same or very similar type of neural agents from the entheogenic plant drugs like ayahuasca or magic mushrooms. If so, it should mean that the potential for telepathy etc became integrated into the human DNA following the initial epigenetic influx, and that this potential survived in our DNA material over thousands of centuries during which it lay dormant and unrequested.
This all sounds reasonable enough, although one might raise a couple of specific questions. I will return to this topic once I've read the book by Wright & Gynn.