The Stoned Ape
How did the human brain triple in size in just two million years?
According to the “Stoned Ape Theory” developed by Terrence McKenna and his brother Dennis McKenna, a community of proto-humans might have consumed the magic mushrooms they found in the wild. That act could have profoundly changed their brains.
“It was like a software to program this neurologically modern hardware,” explained Dennis McKenna in this clip from Fantastic Fungi.
Did Our Ancestors Eat Mushrooms?
First of all, the Stoned Ape theory starts with our ancestors, the great apes who left the forests, traveling across the savannahs on two feet.
You can learn more when you watch Fantastic Fungi.
However, as these ancient relatives of human beings began their journeys, their food choices expanded as they hunted animals and foraged in new environments.
Research has found that 23 different primates—including humans—added mushrooms in their diets over centuries of evolution.
Charles Grob, a professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, reminds us that many indigenous cultures have a rich history with plant medicine.
Basically, this could reinforce the possibility that our prehistoric ancestors began this experience.
“Human existence on this Earth goes back an extraordinarily long period of time, most of which we have no identifiable information. It’s entirely plausible, given that, that the indigenous people all around the world know intimately all the plant life, and will know the different combinations of plant life, that our prehistoric ancestors, they had come across the plants that do alter consciousness.”
The Stoned Ape in Popular Culture
Terrence McKenna and his brother Dennis McKenna developed this theory in the 1970s, and it has spawned some amazing art.
The great comedian Bill Hicks did an unforgettable riff on the Stoned Ape during his Revelations tour, telling audiences:
“I believe that God left certain drugs growing naturally upon our planet to help speed up and facilitate our evolution.”
Finally, mycologist Paul Stamets touched on what he calls the “Stoned Ape Hypothesis” Fantastic Fungi. In the film, he outlined the impact magic mushrooms could have provided our ancestors’ brain development.
“These magic mushrooms open up the amount of information you receive. Basically, you can think of it as a contact fluid between synapsis in the brain. Wow, what a competitive advantage. Especially if you’re working with the geometry of weapons or having to put something together that will give you a better chance of survival.”
Stamets outlined the hypothesis for this hilarious animated video from After Skool.