Trevor Smith, Guest Writer
There are many mysterious anomalies about human evolution yet to be adequately explained. These include the human brains rapid expansion in size and complexity, why this accelerating expansion suddenly stalled roughly 200,000 years ago and our brains have been shrinking ever since, and why our rare glimpses of genius goes hand in hand with our species wide insanity.
“I believe that the lost secret of human emergence..the undefined catalyst that took a very bright monkey and turned that species into a self-reflecting dreamer..that catalyst has to be sought in these alkaloids in the food chain that were catalyzing higher states of intellectual activity.” — Terence McKenna
Tony Wright and Graham Gynn are authors of Left In The Dark– the book that presents Tony’s research outlining a radical re-interpretation of the current data regarding human evolution and, they contend, our recent degenerated state we call “civilization”. You can read the book for free here. Despite such a young and extreme proposal positive reactions are growing and include such minds as Dennis McKenna, Stanislav Grof, Colin Groves, Michael Winkelman and many others.
The following is a discussion with Tony Wright on these anomalies and more, followed by some further information on his theory.
Trevor Smith: After two decades of research and radical self-experimentation you’ve come to a synthesis between the ancient data and information coming out of modern science. Paradoxically this all seems to indicate a humongous problem, and simultaneously explains why we would be oblivious to it in the first place: we are all suffering from species wide neural retardation, and are now too deluded to even realize when faced with the mountain of evidence. Is this the general idea?
Tony Wright: Yes. It should be virtually impossible to find any supporting evidence for such a profound theory if there was no real problem with the development and structural integrity of our neural system in the first place. If there were only ancient accounts of the diagnosis, or any supporting biological data, or initial support from some of society’s sharpest minds, then it should at least ring alarm bells. That all those elements exist and in addition our collective behavior has long been thought by many to be insane indicates something really serious just doesn’t add up. If everything is fine then the theory would be a no-brainer to refute, and we should at least have no fear in thoroughly checking it out.
So during millions of years of evolution in the African tropical forest we developed a symbiosis with fruit, and your proposing that it is no coincidence the most complex tissue in the known universe evolved during a symbiosis with perhaps dozens of species of the most complex chemical factories on the planet. How did this occur?
I’m proposing that the accelerating expansion of the neo-cortex was due to a runaway feedback mechanism driven by our own hormone system in combination with the complex plant bio-chemistry provided by our diet. What has been overlooked is the profound effects of flooding our brains 24/7 for thousands of generations with this highly advanced molecular engineering formula. Fruit is essentially a womb-like developmental environment for the seeds and has very unique, highly complex hormonally active chemistry. Our early development is dictated by the transcription process whereby changes in how the DNA is read dictate the type of structures that develop. Steroids like testosterone are the key players here, but by incorporating more and more of these DNA-reading plant chemicals into our diet we basically shifted from a typical mammalian developmental environment to more of a plant developmental environment.
Along with regulating gene transcription many of these molecules increase brain activity, modulate the endocrine system including the pineal gland, inhibit mono amine oxidase (MAO inhibitors), are antioxidants and also inhibit the activity of our own hormones such as testosterone and oestrogens. Just altering the activity of these two hormones has a dramatic affect on many aspects of our development, physiology and neural structure. For example, decreasing they’re activity extends juvenility and the window for brain development by delaying the onset of sexual maturity.
All this coming together would have many interconnected affects and, being that this bio-chemistry would be present in the developmental environment it would dramatically impact what develops at this most sensitive and rapid stage of brain/endocrine system growth in the uterus.
This carried on after birth through breastfeeding, and then afterwards through directly ingesting this highly advanced molecular engineering cocktail we call fruit. Each generation would pass down a progressively modified neuro-endocrine system as a result. So after millions of years of ever more entangled co-evolution nearly all of the transcription chemicals present during our early development and on through life that were essential to our optimal design/functioning were lost and replaced by progressively worse substitutes irrelevant to our evolution.. all the way until we reach today’s ‘junk’ food. Ironically much of this actually has the opposite effect of fruit bio-chemistry on our hormones, causing the unique process to reverse.
All of this sounds complex but at its foundation it’s just really basic engineering principles: If you change the design (transcription) and construction materials that a system or technology is built from and fueled by, then the structure and functionality of that system will inevitably change as a result. This logic is obvious when applied to any of our technologies but paradoxically we haven’t applied it to the thing involved in generating our perception, which just happens to be the most complex piece of kit we know. Our perception is directly correlated with and ‘effectively’ a product of the extremely sensitive structure and bio-chemistry of our brain and this has changed out of all recognition in a very short time. (more on this symbiosis)
Makes sense considering even the slightest alterations in the structure or chemistry of the brain can result in major changes in overall functioning, how we perceive the world, and our sense of self. The powerful effects of taking even a minut dose of a psychedelic being a perfect example of this sensitivity! What happened when we lost this symbiosis?
Even mild climate change can result in a shrinking of the forest. This would isolate and separate some symbiotic associations more easily than others but a big drying will affect even the most protected non seasonal niches. Eventually we left the forests and were separated from the highly advanced molecular engineering cocktail that we were immersed in for millions of years. The physiological structures most influenced by the symbiosis were the ones most vulnerable to exposure from the re-emerging basic mammalian hormone regime since it was these hormones that prevented their emergence in the first place. The most hormonally sensitive parts of our physiology would be the most affected; such as our reproductive system, immune system and our highly sensitive neural system, especially during its early development in the uterus.
When the symbiosis ended and the archaic steroid regime re-asserts its influence the neocortex stalls and accelerating expansion turns into contraction. The complex neural architecture begins to erode and because the left hemisphere of the brain is more sensitive to steroids this side inevitably erodes at a quicker rate. Some genetic asymmetry and specialization was the primitive norm, and now one side is inevitably reverting back to the primitive type more quickly than the other.
The orthodox view suggests each hemisphere has its own specialized capabilities and that the characteristics of the dominant left hemisphere, such as conceptual and rational thought/speech, are some of our most advanced traits. The data indicates that the development of the brain and in particular one side of the neocortex is now incomplete, and paradoxically the most retarded side has assumed control. With a loss of functioning we become less able to experience, understand and know, and with this comes fear. Fear is a powerful emotion that can mask all other mental functions and this played a part in suppressing the more baffling perceptions of the right hemisphere. When we lose any sense fear accompanies this and a growing sense of anxiety and the need for control arose as the left began actively resisting experiences it cannot categorize or understand since they are threatening to its very sense of self.
This has severely limited our perception and compromised many abilities. The evidence suggests those abilities as well as a wholly different sense of self lie dormant in the right side of our brain and is only occasionally glimpsed by a tiny minority of people. Unfortunately this also creates a paradox. The dominant side of the brain is assessing itself and so while the concept of specialist abilities appears initially to make some sense on further investigation all is not as it appears and this doesn’t hold up. I have proposed that the abilities and perception facilitated by the left side of our brain are a more primitive and greatly reduced or distorted version of what still remains locked away in the right. Instead of separate senses a unified and highly advanced system that perceives everything all at once without any problems was the norm. These glimpses of synesthesia for example (which some are actually born with) could be a relic of this unified and coherent perceptual capability now well beyond and frightening to the primitive neural architecture of the left hemisphere.
It’s interesting then that the myths of a previous golden age and humanities fall into dark times are found all over the world. Even the bible talks about our naked, forest dwelling, fruit eating past. This sort of theme is witnessed among Eskimos, Aborigines, Native Americans, Mayans and dozens of other cultures. Many also talked of a “higher self”. Do you think our ancient ancestors knew what happened? How did they go about addressing the problem? Do we still get glimpses of these right brained states of consciousness today?
When you look at the ancient myths and traditions with all this in mind it becomes blatantly obvious that they all are attempting to describe and address through various techniques essentially the same thing- although both the myths and practices have become inevitably distorted over time from their original purpose as the condition progressed. Of course our tendency today is to dismiss them all as “myths” but in reality they may be more historic account than myth, and this would be expected if the condition was progressive. I’ve proposed that the origin of these ancient practices, such as shamanism, meditation, sleep deprivation, etc, were borne out of techniques to reduce the influence of the degrading left hemisphere and/or engage the abilities of the increasingly suppressed right hemisphere. If fruit was all that was needed to turn around the negative hormonal feedback loop that developed, our ancestors would have figured this out a long time ago. These practices would make a lot of sense if the general condition exists.
Most of us today don’t escape the confines of the dominant left hemisphere except in dreams and perhaps subconscious glimpses during meditation or similar practices. More direct experiences are possible through supplementing with neuro-chemical analogues found in various psychedelic plants for example but a combination of approaches works best. Many such as prodigies, savants, etc, all display abilities characteristic of more access to the right hemisphere. Although if you were to take all of these abilities and put them together with once in a lifetime athletic feats, and shamanic states of consciousness it may still be only a glimpse of a state of being that our distant ancestors considered “normal”. While there has been a catastrophic loss the idea that we all have a fundamental problem with our neural functioning that is entirely treatable is immensely hopeful given our current situation.
Food for Thought
There appears to be a mountain of evidence supporting Tony’s theory. For starters, we are learning more and more about the beneficial properties of fruit bio-chemistry all the time. One tomato for example contains 10,000 different phytochemicals that we currently know about. Many of these chemicals are transcription factors influencing the way the DNA is read and thereby influencing the structures that develop. Is it any wonder then that this can affect brain size? That our brains are shrinking? That poor construction materials can possibly lead to brain damage? Or that what a mother consumes can have a life long impact on the child after birth? For millions of years this unimaginably complex formula was directly influencing what structures develop at the most sensitive stages of growth.
As the symbiotic relationship evolved the mammalian developmental environment was slowly infused with ever greater concentrations and complexity of plant hormones. This had a progressive impact on the way the DNA was read in turn resulted in novel structure and function.
Even if the neo-cortex could be built to the same structural specifications, the major part of its essential neuro-active operating environment was also provided by the chemical cocktail in fruit. There currently is no other coherent and contextual explanation for the accelerating expansion of the brain which suddenly halted and began contracting around the time we left the African forests.
In more recent times, the catastrophic loss of essential design specifications (transcription chemicals) and chronic neuro-chemical deficiency has been exacerbated by the use of increasingly poor quality construction materials.
Katherine Milton’s findings suggest that we have lost around 95% of the complex plant bio-chemistry and nutrients that were present during our evolution for tens of millions of years. When considered within the context of the design, development and function of most complex and chemically sensitive thing we know, these factors in combination can only result in a massive failure.
The Chemistry of Patriarchy
It sounds unlikely that our left hemisphere is a dominant yet damaged version of the right, however there is evidence from various fields to support such a seemingly wild notion. Simon Baren-Cohen has discovered evidence that the left hemisphere is more susceptible to testosterone damage and that higher levels of testosterone in the womb are linked to a lower level of empathy and less social skills. His theory is that autism is an extreme form of the male brain; the male brain being ordinarily less empathic than female brains in the first place. Estradiol is made from testosterone by the enzyme aromatase and plays an important part in the “masculinisation” of the brain, or in this case, the damage to the left hemisphere. So the degree of masculinisation is determined by the amount of testosterone available and the degree of aromatase activity.
The book elaborates: “As we have already seen (see Chapter Three for the link with oestrogen dependent cancer), the activity of aromatase is inhibited by plant flavonoids and, more importantly, by melatonin. Less melatonin leads to more aromatase activity, which in turn leads to increased masculisation of the brain and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, autism (which appears to be becoming much more common). Our ancestral fruit-based diet would have been rich in aromatase inhibiting factors – and in the past our pineals would have pumped more melatonin too. The degree of masculisation of the male brain we see today, therefore, may well be an aberration that has had huge consequences for us.”
Males therefore appear to be the most damaged. Where this manifests in a greater degree of left-brain dominance it can be a disaster, as is evidenced by the abundance of fear and control in our male dominated society. Perhaps it is no surprise then that we live in such a patriarchal society where it’s the old men, chronically deficient in plant chemistry and suffering from years of testosterone driven over-masculinisation, who send the young to war and are currently running our society into the ground through they’re greed and lack of empathic understanding.
Could it just be a coincidence that we see competitive and aggressive behavior all over the place and the biological data seems to predict this sort of behavior in the first place? To make matters worse much of the food we now consume contains the very same hormones that would have been inhibited, along with others that have many detrimental effects.
If humanity were a single patient displaying the range of behavior we are collectively capable of and turned up at the neurology/psychology department of a prestigious hospital, what would they think of our mild to severe tendency for self harm and suicide? Or our oblivious destruction of the very environment that sustains us?
Treating the hundreds of apparently ‘distinct’ behavioral, psychological and perceptual symptoms without at least checking for a general/structural cause would be grounds for serious negligence and a raft of law suits even if there were no smoking gun regarding evidence/mechanisms for a developmental/structural cause? In our case the evolutionary data and biological mechanisms are equivalent to fairly complete cctv footage of a serious accident, and the myths and spiritual traditions of many disparate cultures are eye witness accounts which include, once the dogma is stripped away, methods to treat the condition. Shamanism, psychedelic plants, yoga, meditation, fasting and sleep deprivation are just some examples of these techniques aimed at regaining some of this lost perception.
Psychedelics and Other Clues
Psychedelics like ayahuasca seem to be a powerful means of re-accessing these lost perceptual abilities (any wonder our left brained society has made these things illegal?). It’s been said that shamans for example who work with it enough can eventually bring in an altered state of consciousness willingly, without even drinking the brew. The beta-carbolines in ayahuasca alone are powerful MAO inhibitors with psychoactive properties by themselves (along with many other beneficial effects). We’re chronically deficient in not only a complex cocktail of plant MAO inhibitors but also the ones that our pineal glands would have produced in much higher amounts as well, given that flavonoids stimulate this gland. Pinoline is just one example.
Many other psychedelics can undoubtedly help as a partial treatment. Tony’s mention of synesthesia being a relic of this advanced perception makes sense in light of E.A. Serafetinides research. Serafetinides administered LSD to those who had undergone either left or right temporal lobe removal. He found the perceptual affects were virtually non-existent after right but not left temporal lobe removal– further supporting the idea that the left hemisphere is no longer capable of making use of such profound activity and that this is another psychedelic catalyzing access to the latent functions of the more sensitive right hemisphere.
Other research by Dr. Allan Snyder has found that by decreasing the dominance of the left hemisphere with magnetic fields the enhanced perceptual abilities of the right can be partially accessed. These include increased visual memory, drawing skills, and other abilities. He cites cases were autistic savants have damage to parts of the left hemisphere and how this results in a decreased ability to suppress the less filtered perceptions of the right hemisphere.
Just one example of this is Steven Wiltshire, who has astonishing artistic abilities coupled with a photographic memory. Oddly, he cannot add or subtract! His left hemisphere lost its linear processing but this decreased its dominance, opening the door to the rights more advanced abilities. There are many others like Wiltshire with similar stories.
Research into Alzheimer’s also supports the idea that we are chronically deficient in the chemicals abundant in a fruit, and that this is just a further symptom. Recently it’s made headlines that hundreds of dementia patients could be helped by a “drug breakthrough”. Dementia seems to be partially halted and reversed by drugs with the same sort of activity we see among these fruit chemicals (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22087826). A quick search on google reveals many fruit chemicals with the same exact properties. If this is the case then when we were flooded by an incredibly rich cocktail of flavonoids way beyond current research parameters then, relatively speaking, our reference points for dementia are invalid.
Insanity and Hope
If there was any indication at all that we had profound abilities locked within us then we should immediately look into this. Especially since it is precisely these sorts of enhancements in perception that are necessary if we are going to get ourselves out of the mess we’ve stumbled into.
As Einstein said- “ The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”
If there were any evidence at all for widespread neural retardation would it not be a near certain candidate for the root problem behind our collective insanity and inability to live harmoniously with each other and our environment? If there is a structural problem with our neural architecture then this provides an absolutely amazing opportunity for a species scale ‘fix’ to our current state of literal insanity, and offers immense hope for our dire situation here on earth.
Even if there was only the slightest indication that this was the case then we should at least check to be sure. Not rigorously checking into such a profound possibility would actually be a symptom, and it should be very easy to dismiss based on scientific methodology.
The current reaction to this research is split, but the initial support leans heavily towards the more creative, innovative and intelligent spectrum of society who have been willing to scrutinize with an open mind. Even still, such broad initial support is a conundrum for such a radical new idea. Although the book is not well known as of yet, the Transpersonal Association of Estonia has selected it for translation. Meanwhile it’s being dismissed- often before even evaluating the evidence-by those who cite current or familiar paradigms… exactly as predicted if the condition is real.
The consensus among many striving to better our world is that we are collectively engaged in a tightrope act between disaster and a massive shift in collective awareness. Our ignorance is jeopardizing the continuation of not only our own species but countless others and the planet as a whole. We have the physical means to turn things around but it is a crisis of consciousness; and thus our own minds that stand in our way. We are glued into our conditioned behaviors and ways of viewing the world.
Without a fundamental change in the way we relate to ourselves, the earth, and our place in the cosmos, we will only see more of the same. History repeats itself and, as we have seen time and time again, attempts to fix any of the individual problems (symptoms) that arise from a deranged collective mind are doomed to fail in the long run unless the damaged equipment generating all these problems is addressed.
Major shifts in perception can be accomplished relatively quickly by combining various techniques. It’s straight forward: replace this plant bio- chemistry for the long term and diminish the influence of the left hemisphere while simultaneously engaging the right hemisphere. The trend is very consistent from those who’ve dabbled. The more one explores the more mind blowing and self-evident it becomes. Ultimately it comes down to a choice.
Look at the evidence, experiment and decide for yourself.
This only a glimpse at some of the supporting data. For more information see…
New book project
Terence McKenna ~
“You must cut through the aura of programming and cultural assumptions that surround us from the moment we are able to speak. The only way this can be done is by dissolving the boundaries of ego. Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable…
…The goal can now be stated. What this is all about is a return to archaism with the lessons learned in history. Thats where we were happy. The fall was a fall..Into a veil of tears..Into a world of limitation, pain, suffering, infectious disease and so forth and so on. It’s a prodigal journey into a lower dimension that can now be ended by a collective cultural decision to commit to this Taoist shamanistic feminized cybernetic caring aware present kind of being.”
About the Author
Trevor Smith is a cognitive scientist in NY who has been heavily interested in how accidental and neurochemical alterations of our neural system precipitate changes in consciousness and development.
About Tony Wright
While a student at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and preparing a short dissertation entitled ‘The Genetic Manipulation of Plants’ the subconscious seeds of a revolutionary new theory were sown in Tony Wright’s mind. Over the next 20 years a mixture of scientific curiosity and radical self-experimentation resulted in the development of a simple idea that explains the emergence of increasingly anomalous traits in human evolution. From the rapid and accelerating expansion of our large brain to the mysteries of our mind and the origins of spiritual practice he has developed a new context in which we may understand who we are and has provided a framework for the reunification of the academic and spiritual science of consciousness.