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A fantastic expedition into the origin of human consciousness
on 23 July 2013
I have been listening to Terrance Mckenna's podcasts and talks for the past four months or so but hadn't got round to reading his books thus I decided to pick Food of the Gods, his most prominent work some would say next to the Mushroom Growers' Guide. Although an extremely eloquent and astoundingly knowledgeable man, I had been dubious of his stoned ape theory. According to his hypothesis, the early dawning of human consciousness and evolution was the outcome of the taking of psychedelic mushrooms since the consumption of such strange, alien looking fungi seem to promote self-introspection, heightened creativity, collective values and the facilitating of higher functioning forms of language. To me this seemed like a far-fetched theory, one that didn't seem to have any basis in reality, however having read the book, which is written with such clarity and lucidity but also an observable passion for the subject, one really starts to believe that this may have been the case. He begins describing early and so called 'primitive' cultures such as Tassili n'Ajjer, showing us how these African cultures dating back thousand of years ago show cave paintings of strange bee-headed creatures with handfuls of odd-looking phallic shaped mushrooms pouring from thier hands. He also takes the reader into the world of Catal Huyuk, an early yet surprisingly advanced civilization with a complex artistic culture way ahead of its time and its emphasis on religion and ceremony, which focused, as we know from the findings of temples there, on the worship of bull and cattle(which are clearly related to mushrooms as any consumer of this holy fungi will know). This went hand in hand with the worship of the female and the matriarchy. He then goes onto a variety of other drugs, showing how sugar, an extremely modern drug had an intrinsic link with the slave trade and was a narcotic that had an inevitable relationship with slavery and human oppression. Coffee may also be linked to slavery but also a drug that supports the current ideologue and is a drug well-suited to the capitalistic ideologue in which the worker needs a legal stimulant to keep him energetic enough to keep the machinery of business going in a very literal sense. Anyway, I enjoyed the book alot. Although, I wouldn't say he has been proven to be correct perhaps we may find out that he was in the near future. Regardless of the scientific validity of such a theory though, its important to take on-board the philosophical implications of such a theory and how our lives are dictated by the narcotic mediums of television, coffee, sugar and fast food, drugs that keep us sedate, unquestioning, competetive and stuck within the capitalistic patriarchal mode of thing. Perhaps as he says we need not a regression back to a primitive world but a progression towards a society that embraces technology and transhumanism but also observes the importance of patriarchy, free-expression, relaxation, compassion and more importantly, the freedom for the individual to play with his or her consciousness as they see fit.