The Stoned Ape Theory was posited by psychedelic pioneers Dennis and Terrence McKenna. Suspend your disbelief, and open your mind.
Let’s start at the beginning
The Stoned Ape Theory sounds interesting, doesn’t it? First, let’s have some context. 23 different species of primate consume mushrooms, us being just one of them. There is a long, ancestral use of mushrooms in our genetic and cultural lineage. We diverge from fungi 650 million years ago. Something you may not know is that we are more connected to the Fungi Kingdom than any other. We both take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Many of the bacteria that affect fungi also affect us. Furthermore, many of our medicines come from fungi, the most famous being, of course, penicillin.
So, what is the Stoned Ape Theory?
The Stoned Ape Theory, or Stoned Ape Hypothesis, concerns the evolution of human consciousness. Scientifically, a theory has been tested and proven, and a hypothesis is speculative, while not proven. Therefore, it is really the Stoned Ape Hypothesis. Here is how is goes:
With climate change affecting the food sources in the forest canopies in which our ancestors lived, they came out onto the African savannas looking for food. As omnivores, they hunted deer and antelope, but were open to foraging if prey was scarce. There are two things that hunters look for to track their food: footprints (tracks) and poop (scat).
The most common mushroom that grows out of mammal poop in Africa is psilocybe cubensis. Our hungry ancestors, following game, would have consumed these mushrooms and been catapulted on a mystical cerebral journey. Psilocybin acts as a substitute for serotonin, and activates neurogenesis, causing new neurons to form and creating new neural pathways. Pathways for knowledge, leadership qualities, creative thinking and group planning.
At first, The Stoned Ape Theory was the laughing stock of the anthropological community. However, now we live in a time of open-mindedness and advanced technology. If we can manage to shed the modern stigmas of psychedelics, this actually might resolve an huge unsolved mystery in the human story.
What happened to the human brain?
Somewhere between 2 million years ago and 200 thousand years ago, the human brain cavity doubled in size. This may seem like a long time when compared to a human lifetime, but in evolutionary standards this is remarkably fast for such a change. The increase in brain size greatly enhanced our ability to plan, and our capacity for language. These are two important factors by which we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Although we cannot prove this factually, the consumption of psilocybe mushrooms over millennia is certainly a fair explanation to explain this huge jump in evolution. Ingested as a group, individuals would experience a massive input a data, fractal patterns, and geometrical landscapes. Furthermore, there is an increase in empathy, and a boost in courage as a result of a reset of the fear response. These factors would profoundly affect the brain. Perhaps not once, but millions of times over millions years, this would have a definite lasting effect on a species.