I guess I have to go back to this scenario of human development, and say, just very briefly: here’s how I think this worked. I’m not going to run through the whole evolutionary scenario, but this thing about ego… All primates have what are called dominance hierarchies. That simply means that the hard-bodied, long-fanged, young males kick everybody else around. They control the females, the children, homosexuals, the elderly… everybody is taking orders from this dominance hierarchy. And this is true clear back into squirrel monkeys; it’s a generalized feature of primate behavior. And it’s an aspect of our behavior, as we sit here: women – the feminine – is not honored; the elderly are marginalized; homosexuals, that whole issue; many of our social and political ills stem from this attitude. Well, but you see I believe that when we left the trees, and admitted psilocybin into our diet, that it has the effect of dissolving boundaries, and making this maintenance of a dominance hierarchy very very difficult.
First of all, the key on one level to maintaining the dominance hierarchy is monogamous pairbonding. That’s where it begins. In a society taking a lot of psilocybin, monogamous pair-bonding breaks down, because of the CNS activation, and sexual arousal. So in a psilocybin-using culture, there will be a tendency to orgiastic sexual behavior, rather than monogamous pair-bonding. What that does is it causes an incredible social cohesion, because in an orgiastic society men cannot trace lines of male paternity. So men’s attitude toward children is, “These children are all ours. We the group”… it’s a glue that we, in our paranoid social style, with everybody having the deed to their property and their 11-foot-high fence, can hardly imagine. But psilocybin was artificially suppressing this dominator behavior style in the primate, the evolving protohominid now human being.
When psilocybin was taken out of the diet, the old, old primate program was still there. It had not been bred out; the genes were always there; it’s just that for 50,000 or 100,000 years, we medicated ourselves – literally, religiously – we religiously medicated ourselves every new and full moon, perhaps oftener; these orgies were happening, creating social cohesion, propagating everybody
forward… the problem was, when the psilocybin was taken away, we had been under its influence for perhaps half a million years. We had evolved language, rudimentary abstract philosophy, a sense of religion. We had invented technology in the form of using fire and chipping flint, and all that. The
psilocybin goes away, and suddenly these skills, these tools, these technologies, are in the hands of marauding apes – not any more cohesive caring human social groups, but marauding territorial apes, driven by the desire to control all weaker members of the social group.
And that’s our circumstance! We have, you know, the tools that would allow us to sculpt paradise, but we have the reflexes and value systems of anthropoid apes of some sort – so the split between our conscious hopes, our best foot, and the bottom of the human scale, is appalling. I mean, look at the spread! It’s a spread from – well, from Mother Teresa to serial killers! – I mean, you don’t get serial killers in the chipmunk population, or the grasshopper population – I mean, these animals are not so set at variance with their basic nature that these kinds of pathologies can erupt. We, on the other hand, are half angel, half pack-hunting killer ape. I mean, we are an object-fetish society – I mean, our entire psychology is characterized by a profound discontent. That’s what we’re about. It doesn’t matter – no matter what’s going on, after a little while we get restless and move on; other animal species are embedded in a kind of world of endless genetic cycling. No fox grows bored with hunting, you know?! – and yet our thing is a profound dis-ease.
And I believe it’s because – and slowly you’ve forced me to do this whole rap, which I swore I wouldn’t do – I believe it’s because the psilocybin led us halfway toward a kind of godhead, but then it disappeared, and we are left in this very peculiar situation. This is the myth of the Fall; you know, we are half angel, half beast – and these two natures are united in every one of us. And when you take psilocybin, you feel generally a great sense of community, an ascent to a higher level. If you completely restrict your intake of intoxicants of any sort, then you get the teetotaller type personality, which is characterized by incredible smugness, limited intellectual horizons, and an unbearable aura of self-congratulation that makes it pretty hard for the rest of us to put up with.
See, here is the final piece of this evolutionary key. Psilocybin, in small mounts, increases visual acuity. This is not an arguable point; I mean, you can just give people psilocybin and give them eye tests, and people with stigmatisms see better; your edge-detection ability is greatly increased. Well, you can see that an animal like our remote ancestors, in a hunting environment in the grassland, if there is an item of diet that will make you a better and more efficient hunter, the equivalent of chemical binoculars lying around on the grassland, those animals that avail themselves of this technology will be more successful hunters. And so it was: animals using psilocybin were more successful at raising their offspring to reproductive age. Well, then at slightly higher doses you get this CNS arousal, which in highly sexed animals such as primates, arousal means sexual arousal – an erection in the male – so then there is, without the overwhelming influence of Christian ethics to guide their behaviors, I’m sure these organisms simply flopped in a heap, and – you know, sorted it all out later! So that’s the middle range of the dosage. Low dose: success in hunting. Medium dose: social cohesion achieved through ego dissolution and orgiastic sexuality.
Yet higher doses, 5 grams and up: hunting is out of the question; sex is out of the question; you’re just nailed to the ground by the campfire, and in the course of the evening you discover religion! [laughter] Philosophy! Art! – and, you know, all of that. So here is a unique chemical that, at every dose level, synergizes activity that leads to greater coherency and self-expression. The driving of the imagination – yes, in the question back here you said you can’t create what you can’t conceive of; this is why what the psychedelic experience does, really, is it stretches the envelope of the imaginable. I mean, what can be imagined can be created; what cannot be imagined is not part of the play. So psilocybin really was a stimulant for the production of intellectual product in the form of songs, rituals, dances, body painting, abstract ideas. All of these things are what we are most unique. Well, that’s how it seemed to me. It seemed to me, culture is a shabby lie – or at least, this culture is a shabby lie. I mean, if you work like a dog, you get 260 channels of bad television and a German automobile! What kind of perfection is that?! We have our secular society – religion is completely devalued – and consumer object fetishism is the only kind of worth that we collectively recognize. I’m sure you’ve all seen the T-shirt that says “He” – notice, he – “who dies with the most toys, wins”. That is in fact the banner under which we’re flying here. And the level of unhappiness is immense. I mean, the level of unhappiness among the poor, they’ve always been miserable; but we’ve managed to create something entirely new in human history – an utterly miserable ruling class! I mean, there seems no excuse for that!"