I’m the attorney who represented the Peyote Church is here to introduce McKenna:
we need visionaries who can stretch and even shatter the outer limits of our imaginal reality.
no account of the universe is complete without considering entheogenic reality
this gentleman is wearing a very natty suit and tie!
McKenna is a founder of HEFFTER research institute: therapeutic uses of psychoactive substances derived from nature
Plants are all around us. We don’t pay much attention to them, even though we depend on them. They are very different from us. But when you think about them they are really weird
They don’t move around, they don’t respond to their environment through behavior. They have strange reproductive habits. They require another species, often, to complete their cycle. Plants just do it, even though it would be a little kinky if humans did it! They don’t look like people but people can look like plants.
But plants have mastered a little trick: photosynthesis. Sunlight and water >> organic compounds starting with simple sugars. The byproduct is oxygen which we breathe.
those compounds are universal, found in all life, because they are what life runs on
because plants substitute biosynthesis for behavior: secondary metabolites are messenger molecules
plants can’t run away; they respond to threats through biosynthesis
plants use this chemical language to mediate their situation in the environment
the close association of different species for mutual benefit (symbiosis)
>> quite elaborate when it comes to insects; millions of years of coevolution
fragrances: small molecule turpenoids; pigments, color
UV light: plants look like targets
>> nectar, pollen
usually to the mutual benefit of both: domestication >> easy street: protected from the vicissitudes of natural selection
agriculture: what makes civilized humans possible
we are still sorting out its consequences. Transition from hunter gatherer nomadic to sedentary settled lifestyle
cultivation of plants
we can grow plants and modify them to our needs
rooted human societies; villages; division of labor; invention of law, science, art specialisms etc
agriculture is the foundation of culture!
culture is another huge game changer, not anticipated by biological evolution
culture works on a much faster timescale than biological evolution
culture depends on language: the vehicle on which culture rides
we impact plants as much as they impact us
Brussels sprouts are genetically modified, a monstrosity! a technological artifact as much as a computer
same with medicines: cannabis sativa (one of the oldest we know of), cultivated 12 000 years ago
there is no wild cannabis sativa: they are all a form of cultivar
The neurologically modern brain evolved between 2m and 100 000 years ago.
Other animals have language and culture but not really, nothing that comes up to that level
we are blessed or burdened with this extraordinarily complex brain
The brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe: 100-500 trillion synapsis; Milky Way 100bn stars. “The three-pound universe”
We have this three pound piece of jelly...where all our creativity is...
we are an anomaly: complex language, complex technology; storage of information outside of ourselves and transmit it non-genetically to future generations (that’s a big one)
symbols can be experienced as real > foundation of human culture: the edifice of all human artifacts << complex brain
they look crude; they were not made by homo sapiens but rather homo erectus
between 70 000 and 2000 bp there was an explosion of art (bp = before the present)
Venus of Hole Fels; Bhimbetka Rock; Bradshaw Painting Western Australia; Aurochs at Lasceaux; Cueva Manos Argentina; Drakesberg S. Africa
classical psychedelics interact with 5HT2a receptors (a particular subtype of serotonin receptors)
visual effects: abundantly reflected in shamanic art (such as Jaguar masks)
psilocybin is easy to get (in fungi)
Algerian plateau, Peru, Guatemala; Selva Pascuala Cave, Spain; fossilized peyote buttons from Pecos River TX (3780BC)
this amounts to synesthesia: translating one sensory modality into another
psychedelics readily induce synesthesia
thus they are neurocognitive programming tools: how to use the brain--the hallucinaton of consensual reality in which we are all immersed
psychedelics reliably do this
gazing at something intently for hours
psychedelics activate religious sensibilities
20% said it was the most meaningful experience of life; 40% top five
lots of overlap between psilocybin users and spiritual practitioners
And poet, bard: master of language