The Stoned Ape Theory was founded by none other than the American author, lecturer, ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence Kemp McKenna.
Before we discuss the Stoned Ape Theory itself, let’s talk about its author. Terence McKenna was born on November 16, 1946, and died on April 3, 2000. He had a hobby of fossil hunting in his youth, which helped him gain a scientific appreciation of nature. He also became intrigued by psychology while he was young.
In 1965, McKenna became a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and was accepted into Tussman Experimental College where he studied shamanism.
McKenna suffered greatly from migraines. On May 22, 1999, he had unusually intense headaches and later collapsed due to a brain seizure. He began to worry that his psychedelic drug use and daily marijuana smoking were to blame for his tumor, but doctors told him otherwise. McKenna died at the age of 53 years.
McKenna’s Studies and the Stoned Ape Theory
In the book “Food of the Gods”, McKenna suggested that the evolution from humans’ early descendant Homo erectus to Homo sapiens had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis to their diet. In theory, these events took place around 100,000 BCE. McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory revolved around his hypothesis of the effects produced by Psilocybe cubensis.
Toward the end of the ice age, North African jungles gave way to the grasslands. Some of our primate ancestors left their homes on trees and began to live in the open. They followed herds of ungulates and were eating what they could find along their path. They began to explore the new environment – a grassland one.
Primates specialize their food supply to avoid contact with mutagens in the environment. If you start experimenting with foods, you will produce more children with mutations. Some will be positive and most will be lethal.
The Dominance of Primates
The tendency to form dominant hierarchies was put on hold for around 100,000 years by the psilocybin diet. It allowed the social organization of partnership to rise and eventually led to the emergence of moral values, music, aesthetics, language, altruism, and planning.
The New Diet
Amongst the new range of items in their diet were psilocybin mushrooms growing in the stool. According to McKenna, this drug was the beginning of the changes to primate diet. He says that synesthesia caused by psilocybin also paved the way for spoken language. This formed from the ability to visualize pictures in one’s mind and then express those things to others by using vocal sounds.
Around 12,000 years ago, climate change once again removed the mushroom from the diet of humans. This resulted in a profound set of changes amongst our species that had reverted to life before mushrooms. The social structure of primates was most likely modified or repressed by the consumption of these mushrooms.
McKenna stated that the presence of psychedelics in the diet of humans made a vast number of changes in our evolution.
When you take small amounts of psilocybin, your visual acuity improves. You can actually see better. This means that animals that allowed this within their diets increased success in hunting. This in part increased food supply, which also means more success in reproduction.
At a psychedelic dose, psilocybin might inhibit orgasms because it would act as a stimulant, states McKenna. A higher dose of psilocybin triggers the stimulation of eyesight, imagination, and sexual interest. All of these together produce the use of language in primates. Thus, the Stoned Ape Theory regards psilocybin as a kind of evolutionary catalyst or enzyme.
The Influence That Mushrooms Created an Orgiastic State
In the central nervous system of most animals, stimulants create what we call an arousal, which means the inability to rest. In highly sexed creatures such as primates, it means sexual arousal. So that means that psilocybin at one time was a stimulant to sexual actions.