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Thoughts on psychedelics influencing the evolution of mankind.

Dr.WAGNER

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creativity is clearly intertwined with psychedelics, but I'd be really weary of any ridiculous meta-narratives that see their use as some 'vital' spark within human 'history'.

Sorry I know that sounds shrewd but there's just so many presuppositions beneath a lot of the comments above.
 

Dr.WAGNER

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Perceiving of 'evolution' in the way the topic does as well, seems a bit like a Judeo-Christian meta-physical hangover.
 

psood0nym

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As many here have alluded to, we’ll never be able to isolate any clearly defined evolutionary vectors of human culture as being obviously instantiated by the use of any particular psychedelic drug. So long as we understand that we are articulating the proposed histories in broad strokes, allowing for a high degree of recursion and non-linearity in the casual interplay of psychedelics use and cultural evolution, I think it’s plausible there is utility in this way of conceiving them.

The role of psychedelics in the evolution of human civilization can probably most easily be understood in the same terms this evolution has traditionally been spoken of: as extending directly from human tool use. Through this lens, psychedelics are metacognitive tools. And it is humankind’s metacognitive capacity, our exercise of a uniquely high degree of self-awareness among experiential beings on Earth, which most distinctly sets humans apart from all other forms of biological consciousness.

More directly than any other tool humans use, psychedelics operate on the very faculty that makes us unique in the natural world, and so it is only natural that we should intuitively recognize their role in the “progress” of our civilization. In addition to their widely recognized and aforementioned role in the counterculture movement of the 1960s, mathematician Ralph H. Abraham concludes the following about the role of psychedelics in recent intellectual history (from the 2008 MAPS Bulletin):

“There is no doubt that the psychedelic revolution in the 1960s had a profound effect on the history of computers and computer graphics, and of mathematics, especially the birth of post-modern maths such as chaos theory and fractal geometry. This I witnessed personally. The effect on my own history, viewed now in four decades of retrospect, was a catastrophic shift from abstract pure math to a more experimental and applied study of vibrations and forms, which continues to this day.”
Granting Abraham’s argument, and integrating it with the conception of psychedelics as tools, we might think of our metacognitive usage of them, in the form of drawing inspiration from psychedelic experience, as having had an important role in the development of the titular tool of our computer age. Computers are of course instrumental to the rapidly evolving “augmented reality” paradigm, with technologies like “Google Glass” arguably representing a self-directed evolution of external memory and perceptual prostheses into a novel habitat defined largely by increasingly elaborated metadata, which of course, alongside psychedelics, is another example of tool use expanding human awareness.

In the 21st century, we’ve seen a fleshing out of our serotomimetic metacognitive toolkit via the proliferation of designer psychedelics, most of which directly owe to the inventions of Alexander Shulgin. As elucidator alludes to in the original post of this thread, we’re also bearing witness to the influence of novel classes of psychoactive compounds like N-Benzyl phenethylamines , empathogens, dissociatives, and, (in what I like to think of as the freakiest curve ball ever thrown psychiatry’s way) selective kappa opioid agonists.

With the widespread legalization of recreational cannabis looming, I wouldn’t be surprised to also see liberalization of societal attitudes, including further openness to licit experimentation with compounds that are currently very much in vogue like MDMA and psilocybin. Indeed, I’m hopeful there are changes on the horizon, and that psychedelics will very naturally play a role in the formation of the societies of the future.
 

pmoseman

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Indeed, hypothesis would be more technically correct in this case. I will say, however, that a statement such as "Claims put forth without evidence are as good as lies" has no real basis in fact for it to be correct or incorrect. That statement falls into the realm of opinion. At any rate, arguing semantics is not the purpose of this thread and just muddies the waters.

There has been some work done regarding neurogenesis and psychedelics. I am at work right now, but will post a bit more on this later with references even :)
I saw some cave paintings of people chasing buffalos with spears and hypothesized that is how all the buffalo were killed. I can prove it with their skeletons. Hypothesis must be provable. That is what I am talking about. In this case, you have working the evidence, you could be fooled, but without any evidence your conjecture is meaningless.
If you look you will find spear marks on every bison for miles around.
When you put that together with other hypotheses, you get a theory. IE another researcher found cave paintings of people pushing bison off a cliff. You found the same spear marks on bison at the bottom of the cliff. The theory is that people from the first cave and the second cave had shared knowledge. Before you make claims, have evidence. It is not a ridiculous request to make.
If you have no bison skeletons, it is useless conjecture. You would have nothing to pass along other than the fact that cave paintings exist. When you make hypothesis you provide a method of proving it.
 

pmoseman

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Phaxius said:
The mystery of consciousness is perhaps one of the most attractive pulls towards the use of psychedelics, as it allows us to step outside everything we thought we knew and gain new perspective on how we perceive everything.
When people start trying to debunk films because of some error the director made, they know the entire film is not "real" from the outset but they accept it as true in order to encapsulate it. You think after using psychedelics that everyone else is fooled into believing the film is real, that somehow the government changed out the reels, and there is no way to know this without going drugs or something.
It may be that there are a lot of people who think the film is real, but I don't really see how that puts them at much of a disadvantage, or that drugs are required for them to see.
Psychedelic users tend to discredit all knowledge gained from the film. Is the film somehow outside of reality? Everything seen in the image stood before the camera, the light of the projector is real, the actors, the script.
We can learn more about "reality" through film; using sow-motion film for example.
So are we talking about the film, in terms of it being real, as in the love affair between those two characters just "not fitting reality" or are we talking about the film itself not being real? You may have realized people are shallow but psychedelic drugs have not delivered you from reality, it is the same before: where psychedelic drugs existed; where your childhood existed.
You may have just realized, by messing around with the projector, that you have been watching a film. That does not make the film "more real" to you, you are still just looking at a film, after changing how you think of the film in relation to what is outside of your theater. Psychedelics did not put you outside of the theater. Look at the evidence, hallucinations do not exist outside the mind. People do not see outside their body. People are born believing other people are real. Baby ducks look for their mom. Cultures all over the world believe in magic, curses from bad spirits etc. it is part of human evolution, supported by life and death consequences, it is not a cultural bound belief, and nothing to do with drugs. Knowledge and social change coincided with drug use, it may have played some roll, but in other countries there had been similar upheavals because it was driven by economic equality and spurred by communism not in the spread of drugs in the '60s. The factions leading cultural revolution and the changes they demanded were formed before 1950 before psychedelics were even introduced.
Now the same story is trying to be concocted and applied to fields of mathematics used in computers, eg fractals, had been around earlier than is begin suggested. There have always been advances in maths, once again we see something that merely happened around the '60s. People advance mathematics with or without psychedelics.
 
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Phaxius

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Sweet, I nominate Ray Liotta to play the part of pmoseman. Definately an interesting comparison, but I am not sure how qualified you are to tell me or anyone else what I think. I personally would not use a movie to describe reality per se, however, definitely thought provoking approach. I agree that psychedelics don't really take you out of reality, and that they are not absolutely necessary to come to any of the same thought processes described by those that take them. Some people never really glean any insight from psychedelics...it's more what the perception does with what it is presented (drug or no drugs) than some magic bullet that will bring enlightenment. Such a thing does not exist as far as I know.

Oh noes, the government switcheded the reels again! (Sorry, not sure where you got that curve ball, but was entertained by it anyways)
 

Phaxius

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That was actually not meant to be derogatory btw. All in all if we take ourselves too seriously it will only become an epic flame war that will kill this thread.

We appear to agree on some things, and disagree on others. This is how life is and we get nowhere if we veer to far from the path (in this case related to the topic). I am interested to hear what your take on this subject would be, had there not been previous posts.

This is an interesting thread, let's please not torch it. I speak towards myself on this as well. Shall we move forward?
 

pmoseman

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No. I did not take it as a derogatory manner at all. It was good humoured. I wanted to mention as well that things like Charlie Manson being the result of psychedelics.
I want to say psychedelics cannot be used as a brainwashing agent for like... cults, that stuff did not originate with drugs. But I am not sure.
This all ties into drug bringing influence from the stars.
I dig it.
 

Phaxius

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That is a very good point as well. A lot of people in discussion of this topic do tend to focus more on the possible positive influence of psychedelics, when the overall direction that these experiences take us is based on who we are to begin with. Not everyone who is affected by the use of psychedelics in the long run elicits long term benefits. For some, it is quite the opposite. Perhaps this is the reason why not everyone was/is considered fit to be a shaman.

As for brainwashing as in cults or other applications, psychedelics increase suggestibility, but may not be so useful for this purpose on a consistent basis due to variability of the experience. The delicacy of the mind state and confusing nature at high enough doses to cause that level of ego dissolution increase the risk of negative after-effects (several CIA experiments with LSD ended in the eventual suicide of the subject). I won't say it cannot be done, but moreover that there are likely more efficient means to that end. Hitler didn't need to dose the population of Germany to get a good portion to follow him into dark territory...
 
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Phaxius

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Ah, and also even though we may take doses of drugs that dissolve the ego, there really is no true ego death per se, and we are still essentially who we were after the experience. We are as much a product of our experience as the experience is a product of us. The way in which we integrate these experiences can have as much if not more of an impact on perception as the experience itself.
 

lovepsychadelics

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I am correct.
As a technical term, theory is not what you or phaxius thinks.
A theory does not graduate to being fact.
I never said a theory in itself was fact, indeed my post indicates that a theory is NOT fact but is conjecture. Scientific theory is all about testable evidence based on "individual empirically testable conjectures" wiki, thanks Vurtual :). I'm not talking about scientific theory unless i mention "scientific theory" or "evidence based theory". A theory aka "hypothesis" may have a basis on some kind of fact but that basis can be as remote as the image of something that looks like a mushroom painted on a cave wall. A theory "hypothesis" does not need fact. Fact (scientific methodology) can and does often prove a theory (hypothesis) to be groundless.

Scientific theory and the scientific methodology associated are different from hypothesis/conjecture or "speculative" theory. Theory in itself does not mean scientific theory unless scientific methodology is applied to collect data. I guess "hypothesis" is the more correct term but unless your specifically talking about scientific theory and the associated methodology the word "theory" is as good as "hypothesis", Speculation, conjecture, guessing, stab in the dark. I don't think I specified myself as well as I should have previously.

An example: people thought the earth was flat and this was taken as fact (despite the ancient Greeks proving the earth was round over 2000 years ago this knowledge was lost to Europe in the middle ages). Next thing Columbus sails round the world and hey the world is NOT flat, it's round. Well the earth is flat theory (hypothesis) was disproved. Often developments in say physics prove another scientists theories (hypothesis) incorrect when data is collected that can be scientifically tested and evidence gathered which equates to FACT. SPECULATION DOES NOT REQUIRE FACT! You are correct pmoseman however scientific theory and methodology only applies to what can be scientifically tested. If you believe the word "theory" only applies to the scientific model then I think you are incorrect. This post is a speculative theory/conjecture/speculation/shot in the dark.

A speculative theory or hypothesis would be psychedelics having a direct impact on human development. There is little evidence outside of cultural practices of indigenous peoples to say that psychedelics have ever played a part in human development. Coca leaves have been found in South American burials/offerings dating back some 3000 years and that is a scientifically validated fact. This is purely speculative theory or "hypothesis". When I speak of a scientific or evidence based theory it one based on data that can be tested and achieve repeatable results. Just to clear up muddied waters.

To make it simple psychedelics influencing the evolution of mankind is a THEORY, a speculative theory aka "hypothesis". Influencing physical evolution is a speculative theory or "hypothesis" as there is no data to base this assumption on it's just that an idea/conjecture/assumption. Psychedelics influencing mankind and our cultural evolution has some evidence such as references in popular contemporary culture ie books, movies, video games. It is testable ie there exist movies/books/media/web site etc that have drug use as central themes and can therefore be scientifically tested.

In the case of say erowid for example there will be people accessing the website and they may or may not chose to use psychedelics. That is evidence there is interest in these substances in contemporary culture. The number of people accessing such data would indicate the percentage of society with internet access, an interest in drugs which could be refined to those accessing data on psychedelics and the type of data accessed. This in turn implies interest in these substances among contemporary members of society and therefore may influence/impact cultural evolution. You would then need to gather data on those accessing said information as to the influence on their life that caused them to seek such data. Cultural evolution could be as simple as someone reading a book on LSD or someone painting about their experience on DMT and selling that to people. This indicates an interest in this material and therefore an impact of some kind. The literature or imagery being/becoming popular with mainstream contemporary culture indicates it has some degree of impact/influence upon contemporary culture and therefore influences evolving contemporary trends.

Is it an evidence based theory? There is some evidence psychedelics have influenced certain cultural evolution in different ethnic minorities. Tribes in the amazon have a number of beliefs relating to ritualistic use of psychedelics. This is a scientific theory that can be tested using scientific methodology. This data indicates most indigenous peoples use psychedelics to some extent be it individuals like a shaman or witch doctor be they male or female or more widely distributed such as eating peyote among certain Native American People. There is no evidence these practices have changed our evolutionary path as a species. There is no evidence to say we as a species have physically evolved in an alternative manner to that in which we would otherwise have evolved that would be pure "hypothesis" or speculative theory ie a guess.

Cultural evolution has however been influenced both indirectly and directly. An example: Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas a published novel and movie. The concept of psychedelic use is part of popular culture whether people chose to experience these things or not. Because of popular contemporary culture I'd say substances like psychedelics have become part of global popular culture and influenced cultural evolution to some extent but not physical evolution. This is an example of evidence based theory as in there is evidence that psychedelics (not the use just the concept) are influences on contemporary culture such as arts and movies.

The speculative theory "hypothesis" is some degree of contemporary cultural impact by psychedelic substances and the concept of these substances influencing contemporary culture such as art, film, literature etc. This data can be tested using scientific methodology this being there exists a volume of contemporary cultural phenomena such as movies, literature, internet sites that examine or relate in some fashion to psychedelics use, experience, creative influence, events etc. This in turn is viewed or accessed by a percentage of the population. Asking these individuals if they were previously aware of this substance, if these contemporary cultural phenomena had impacted them in any way would indicate some degree of cultural/social impact. Evidence based (scientific) theory tested using scientific methodology. Now that the testing has concluded and it is evident there is some degree of cultural impact of psychedelic substances through art, film, literature etc it has become a scientific or evidence based theory.

Hope my alterations made my comments as clear as crystal or mud. Just my thoughts and elaboration to avoid confusion and retraction from previous comment about fellow BLer. Also this post is much waffle about nothing!
 
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elucidator

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Ah, and also even though we may take doses of drugs that dissolve the ego, there really is no true ego death per se, and we are still essentially who we were after the experience. We are as much a product of our experience as the experience is a product of us.
Maybe ego dissolution and subsequent refurbishment is a more accurate term :) , though ego loss is way easier to say.
The way in which we integrate these experiences can have as much if not more of an impact on perception as the experience itself.
If we could somehow apply the 100th monkey theorem to this statement, it would explain how I think much of the world's ideological views have progressed.

Very cool avatar btw.
 
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Vurtual

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hey lovepsychadelics, i think you're a bit wrong in how you understand theory, as i tried to point out above. To quote wiki: Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge,[2] in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better defined by the word 'hypothesis').[3] Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions.[4]

There was an episode of QI series one (on uk tv) with ben goldacre on it that did a good job of discussing this if you can find it.

and no need to get so heated is there? follow the lead of phaxius and pmoseman's last few posts.

btw does your username come from your theory of how to spell? ;)
 

lovepsychadelics

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WTF?? I added a sentence defining "asshat" (possibly a good description of myself!) and my damn post gets eaten again. Definition of asshat: as in one who wears his ass as a hat or has his head so far up where the sun don't shine it hurts. Anyway Vurtual you got the concept re: the post I was commenting on not defining theory vs scientific theory and sating they were correct despite the lack of accurate indication of their implied meaning. Corrected my implied meanings refrained from rude comments or removed them and I took the piss out of myself. Psychiatry/sociology etc are not all that scientific and that's my background. As for the handle thing my original cheesy moniker had already been taken and so to avoid typing a third pseudo name I added the letter a where there should have been an e and I've been "lovepsychadelics" ever since.
 
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Vurtual

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^ yeah you're right too - that is the more common use of the word. i tend to think scientific when i think of theories (as in falsifiability). I thought there was a reason for your spelling too, as there is for mine (noone's ever noticed it though - not enough whacky manchester-based sci-fi readers about?).

Up your arse is a bit far i reckon - i can understand why you got irate (pmoseman seems to have a bit of an anti-psychedelic agenda around the forum...)
 

lovepsychadelics

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^ Yeah I tend to shove my head where the sun doesn't shine a bit to often to be comfortable. Hope you enjoyed reading my meaningless dribble as much as I enjoyed typing it out using one finger keystrokes. :) You mean Vurtual like the AI/robot thing? What was that from again?
 

Phaxius

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If we could somehow apply the 100th monkey theorem to this statement, it would explain how I think much of the world's theological views have progressed.
The 100th monkey effect has relatively rocky origins in terms of credibility, however, I personally like the idea. This is something that perhaps relates in ways to some interesting things physics talks about these days. One such concept is quantum coherence. I am hardly a physics expert, but this phenomena has been used to somewhat explain aspects of the behavior of insect hives among other things. This perhaps could lend some added plausibility to the idea that what a population learns may have an effect on the same stuff being easier to learn for others with no prior experience. I have seen toddlers operate electronic devices with relative proficiency compared to some middle-aged people. To what extent this is due to observation and experimentation alone is uncertain. I personally don't subscribe to the critical mass aspect of that concept (i.e. When enough learn something the rest just pick up on it intrinsically), but rather that it is more directly proportional to both the collective perceived relevance of the information and skills in question as well as the prevalence of common dispersion of that knowledge and skills. In other words the more people that know something or have developed skills they deem relevant to society, the easier it is for others to learn these thing and develop these skills. Of course, this could be another chicken & egg type scenario as well.

I do believe that we all have varying levels of access to information outside the conventional sense. The concept of intuition among other things fall under this category for me. Some might label it collective consciousness or something similar, but not exactly what I mean (although perhaps similar). Labels are mostly seeds anyways...to describe a concept of something perceived the words are not the perception, but rather a representation of that perception that we may use to cultivate a similar perception (perhaps even acting as a "key" of sorts at some point to a common thread as it were, who knows really). I digress, this sort of ramble could go on for a long time and is likely to spiral off from its somewhat marginal connection to the topic lol.

Very cool avatar btw.
Thank you, yours is quite nice as well :)

That which is above is like to that which is below...etc.
 

pmoseman

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Poison Ivy is an interesting plant. It had no evolutionary basis for being an irritant to our skin. Deemed an accident. Other animal species can eat poison ivy like any other herb. This seems extremely odd but is this the way all things evolve? Survival by accident, there is no guidance, no moral scruples to how it gets done. Rules learned one day wind up being broken the next. Poisonous plants and animals have bright colors that ward predation, more soon share the same disguise. Have we evolved to evolve more rapidly than any other species?
Trees send out chemical signals. Beetles fake those signals. They invade the host tree. If the beetle feed on the plant long enough, they may turn into partners. The beetles remain immune to poisons the plants develop to keep the whole system safe.
Man has evolved to make choices. To plan his actions. I think the monkey story is trying to illustrate that monkeys make choices too. But there is a social pattern that lends itself to survival, a longer lasting behavior rooted in evolution, that drives older monkeys to continue with what they know works, until the younger ones have proven it is safe. If this 100th monkey story is taken as true, then do older monkeys try to stop the younger monkeys? No. Teaching the young something that is wrong does not seem to follow the natural flow of survival.
We have evolved in a geological blink of an eye to live alongside livestock (plagues). Birds evolved to fly further and further above us (guns). What is man's relationship with psilocybe? Is there a reason behind the effects, or is it just an accident? Have we been down this same road with other plants? A modest looking fungus contains a lethal poison. The ones we can recognize easily as poisonous all survive, specialize, and we stop eating them. But to survive, eventually, on the whole, each species has to eat the poisoned, what else is there to eat? Eventually, perhaps we have all become immune to the poison of various plants. Perhaps to the credit of impulsive human behavior this activity is forbidden. Is this another sort of evolved behavior, taking psychoactives? Perhaps the plant benefits?
 
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pmoseman

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Obviously, while drugs such as LSD & other psychedelics remain illegal it will be difficult to find out what perentage of the population are using them because they will not tell the truth when they are asked.
"Self-reports of drug use behaviors and mental health questions could be influenced by memory errors and under-reporting; however, a 14-year longitudinal study reported good consistency over time in reporting of LSD use." Krebs and Johansen Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study, referring to Johnston LD, O’Malley PM (1997) The recanting of earlier reported drug use by young adults. NIDA Res Monogr 167: 59–80.
From that Johnston and O'Malley, "Because lifetime use logically should never decline, the rate of subsequent recanting of earlier reported lifetime use provides relevant evidence on validity."
You know in your heart what I'm trying to say with this.
Hope my alterations made my comments as clear as crystal or mud. Just my thoughts and elaboration to avoid confusion and retraction from previous comment about fellow BLer. Also this post is much waffle about nothing!
But I love reading waffle, so it works out.
^ yeah you're right too - that is the more common use of the word. i tend to think scientific when i think of theories (as in falsifiability). I thought there was a reason for your spelling too, as there is for mine (noone's ever noticed it though - not enough whacky manchester-based sci-fi readers about?).

Up your arse is a bit far i reckon - i can understand why you got irate (pmoseman seems to have a bit of an anti-psychedelic agenda around the forum...)
No no, he's right. I was being a grammar-nazi but I love words and the word 'technical' being used in the original sentence gave me all the validation I felt I needed to be a complete ass-hat. I was technically correct. But common usage is not beyond my comprehension. We will always be saying one thing, meaning something else, and being read as something else.
I might be a scumbag psychedelic hating moron, but I do it with a smile, and try not to fuck up what I am saying. I have an interest in nature and la di da, so it is not like we cannot get along. I was just grinding away at a problem that . Definitely a bit too much, I think I am mainly done with it though. It has been cathartic.
Ergo, everything that people believe is special about LSD is actually what's special about humans.
Absolutely agree. Maybe it helps people discover more about themselves. What it actually does is a bit of a mystery to me. Does it really make us aware of something we did not know before? We have to be careful when we ask the question that we already appreciate how much alike we are with our predecessors. As individuals there was quite a wide-variety. Usually inventions or world-views are created that do not either have the funding or popularity. I think LSD would have been part of any age when it was introduced, there is no single well-defined direction to get from it. One person may take it and think about world-peace while another might think about personal riches.
The 100th monkey effect has relatively rocky origins in terms of credibility...
The monkey story is a legend.
 

Phaxius

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In retrospect, I'm not sure why I commented on the credibility of the 100th monkey effect, especially since most of what I say is conjecture anyways. As was mentioned earlier all these ideas have some basis, indeed some more solid than others. That is perhaps the nature of such discussion. It seems that science alone is not enough to sufficiently explain everything, nor are philosophy, spirituality, or religion. In my opinion, the most interesting concepts come from that realm where the objective and subjective meet.

There have been claims put forth here and there that some of the ancient mystery schools used psychedelics in their initiation rituals. Some ancient religions and cultures have been shown to have such rites as well. Also, as has been pointed out there are many cultures that have made regular use of these substances for millennia. So even though use of psychedelics may not be the sole reason why we have gotten to where we are now, it seems ludicrous to say they are completely irrelevant to our collective path up to this point.
 
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