It’s been over 230,000 years since man has reached this present level of evolution and cognitive capability and much of our advancement to date, many would argue, had been progressed through the use of mind-altering substances available at the occasional cow or elephant patty. In fact, if you look back across time, you will find that at this exact period in time, people are making less use of naturally derived mind-altering substances than at any other time in the history of man. In his thought-provoking “Food of the Gods, published in 1993, author Terrence McKenna, makes the argument that psilocybin mushrooms were widely available in most open grasslands and that it is singularly responsible for the rapid evolutionary growth of the human brain in what has become known as the “Stoned ape hypothesis. He believed that specifically, psilocybin mushrooms were the “evolutionary catalyst” from which sprang everything from language, the arts, religion, philosophy, science, language, and projective imagination.
Evolution of the human brain
This idea may be difficult to grasp at first but by understanding the evolution of the human brain, we can get a better idea of how a mind-altering substance can actually enhance our creative thinking skills. In other words, if you understand the processes the evolving brain has undergone over the past 50 million years since the emergence of primates, then the possibility can seem not so far-fetched.
It is not possible to determine when the possibilities emerged but if you go back to the first sentient life to have emerged some 3.77 billion years ago, at that time you had early sentient life with its own life functions and were able to interact with other cells in nature. It possessed various systems including digestive, respiratory, excretory, musculoskeletal, endocrine, reproductive, nervous system and an immune system which was the same but different from the systems we possess today as humans. Cognitive functions, however, at a basic level consisted of two primarijuana functions:
- Recep which is the function of using its available senses or receptors to experience its environment;
- Precept which is the process of determining a course of action based on the senses experienced.
These functions were automatic functions that were present within all living things and life continued on in that same fashion for billions of years as life evolved. This was a theory developed by Richard Bucke, an early 20th-century author who is widely considered to be the father of Western Spiritual psychology. Within his book Cosmic Consciousness, he suggested that the continuation of life over the early part of the 3.77 billion years eventually was nothing but a series of Recep and Precept or automatic actions occurring in a variety of different environments as those early brains layered more and more experiences of receptors firing and perception automatically determining an action based on the Recep perceived.
A Recept or a Receptual Thought is a compound memory that occurs when faced with a sensory situation perceived as familiar.
A Precept involves the receipt of information from the nervous system detected through the Recepts, and the performance of automatic action as a result.
As this process continued on for hundreds of millions of years, those simplistic brains grew to develop higher levels of function based on the requirements of the environment. As life emerged into different species, specialized brain development occurred as the process of Recep and Precept forced the development of more specialized functions and a larger brain to more effectively respond to the environment. The basal ganglia was just one result and is known as the reptilian or primitive brain and it emerged first to continue to direct the automatic functions of feeding, fighting, fleeing, and reproduction.
As the process of Recep and Precept continued the layering process of experiences that prompted further brain growth and specialization, the next area of the brain to develop was the Limbic system which was developed to provide for the abilities to have feelings and emotions. This means at some point in time, hundreds of millions of years ago, another step of the cognitive process was developed, that of “Concept”.
From this point onward we had a 3 part process of Recep or the Recep of sensory stimuli, Precept of the automatic function resulting from what was detected by the receptors, and the new term of Concept as the more and more advanced brain began to consciously or the ability to consciously consider a proper course of action. For humans, this layering of experiences next led to the development of the Rational Brain as Recep led to continual Precept and an ever-increasing frequency of Concepts as the experiences built new understandings.
Usage of the mind-altering phycobilin mushrooms:
During that entire time as the life of the human species spread out of Africa to conquer the four corners of the world, they made extensive use of all of the available resources including all of the mind-altering phycobilin mushrooms that could be gathered, for religious and communal experiences. This was possible because the brain does something interesting when it is on psychedelics.
The brain is separated into different regions, and with mushrooms, more regions seem to communicate -normally disconnected regions are now able to leverage input from other areas of the brain. And the continual use over time led to the continuous development of new brain matter, diversification of activity, and new layers of cognitive experiences that allowed us to move in different ways – to adapt, to change, to survive. The use of mind-altering substances has been mentioned numerous times in the bible as a tool enabling a closer relationship with spirit. In fact, some have indicated that the apple mentioned in the story of Genesis with Adam with Even supposedly partaking in not an apple but in mushrooms from the Tree of knowledge. As a matter of act, even tele-evangelist Joel Osteen can be seen speaking of his belief that the term manna could in fact refer to mushrooms, and many people who are both practicing spiritualists and users of mind-altering plants believe that these plants actually are all part of a conduit that connects us to the subconscious: Psilocybin mushrooms seem to be directly connected to one’s spirit because of its ability to produce Introspective and spiritual experience while marijuana is believed to be connected to towards the mind in its the ability to enable the extrapolation of thought.
In a recent 2020 survey of participants within a blind study using multivariate logistic regression models, for those who suggested they were taking marijuana for spiritual reasons, the vast majority who received the actual drug during the study stated increased “experiences of insight, connectedness, joy, love, and unity with transcendent forces”.
Leading researcher, Clinical psychologist Gráinne Schafer on the topic of drug use for increases in creativity states that research does appear to show that “individuals who don’t consider themselves very creative in the first place benefit pretty dramatically from the drug”. She states that it loosens their ability to see things from different perspectives and “unlocks some ideas that they might not have considered in a sober state.” However for the already creative thinker, she suggests that cannabis use didn’t appear to show significant value in their creative thought process but also neither did it “detract from their creativity levels”.
The usage of psychedelics can do wonders for not only treating many mental illnesses but also for enhancing creativity
For those who have experienced that shift in consciousness, scientists speculate that during the extreme period of interconnectivity, especially gained during the use of psilocybin, the brain is rewiring itself through the connections being established as more neural pathways are being formed. As described in a 2020 Psychedelics episode on the popular Netflix episode on “The Mind, Explained”, past experiences existing in our memory act as proverbially deep ruts in snow or destructive impressions in our subconscious mind-affecting us in a myriad of ways. Mushrooms are believed to provide a new coat of theoretical snow to the subconscious mind allowing the person to develop a new relationship with past experiences i.e. it can assist one in breaking the patterns a person can tend to follow emotionally. This is why there are many new pharmaceutical startups in Canada and Europe working to develop new drugs from phycobilin mushrooms to aid in such areas of PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder, depression to name just three conditions.
The key for the creative mind can also be found here as well because whether for the purpose of dampening the impact of past traumas thus allowing one to move forward with more productive thoughts and emotions or the development of a-typical ideas. In my belief, anytime regions in the brain, in its internal communication, are able to connect with additional regions of the brain, that’s a good thing. This is when Recept leads to Precept leading to Concept with the Concept being derived from areas of the brain that are not typically referenced for observations i.e. it seems to change the orientation from which we view experiences thus opening oneself up to new possibilities.
The positives outweigh the negatives if you know to redirect your thoughts towards desired target
Marijuana can have a similar but different effect on the creative thought process as phycobilin. If you consider again the process of Recept, Precept followed by Concept of the development of an idea surrounding an experience then an experience that impacts the mind, marijuana performs specific functions within this process.
First, it causes the mind to race into many different directions like a torpedo, launched by a submarine, looking for a target. Without a target, it simply goes and seeks. It’s not until it makes a detection that it actually begins to hone. Marijuana acts in a very similar way in that initially again, the mind races looking for direction and this can be the most challenging aspect of marijuana for a person to move through because marijuana will take you where you are predisposed to go. What I mean by this is that in this writer’s experience, depending on the strain and terpene levels of the marijuana, it will take a person into a place where they want to contemplate or think but just like the targetless torpedo, your thoughts need to have a target and if you don’t provide one, it will go where you allow it to take you and this is why many people complain of bouts of paranoia and anxiety attacks. For example, imagine as you move through life’s daily challenges, you’re confronted by the events of the day such as the war in Ukraine, the thought of potential layoffs at work, or even the potential health scare you may be experiencing. Now you may have indulged in marijuana in an attempt to relax and possibly think of a new way to do an old thing but with marijuana being interested in taking you where you are inclined to go, you have to be very persistent in where you choose to direct your thoughts. Now, what does it mean “take you where you are inclined to go”? If you are having any negative thoughts that you decide to entertain then marijuana will truly help you to entertain all aspects of those negative thoughts whether realistic or not. It will move you first and in a very benign way, to consider those negative thoughts. Next, it will assist you in following those thoughts as you examine the possibilities- catastrophize. Marijuana is very good at this. It will also increase your pulse and breathing as the primitive brain places you directly into the condition being considered, the threat of the attack, the fight or flight response. That’s when the heart rate increases, the fear can set in and the overwhelming experience of doom can soon follow which can last for hours if you’re not prepared to handle the situation by redirecting your thoughts. This is why many people say it can create feelings of paranoia.
Regular users, however, know this and are able to monitor their thoughts and redirect them quickly when those turn in directions that are not offering value.
In following the experience further, while this presents one potentially negative aspect to usage (and there are others), the positives truly can outweigh the negatives if you remain mindful of where you are allowing it to take you, and leverage it as a tool of thought experimentation and world-building within your creative pursuits. For example, for the creative mind, it is truly possible to direct your thoughts in any direction you choose to go and retain that direction for as long as you want to run your marijuana-induced thought experiment. To explain this, consider how the creative mind works in comparison to the less creative mind. To set the basis, think of how one creates new ideas from their experiences. As with any other life form, we generalize our way through our environment. Just like a deer will walk into a field and review the surroundings for danger using its sight, smell, and hearing, we do the same thing. The deer needs to experience something out of the ordinary in order to have its attention captured, such as a foreign scent or an unusual rustling of the grass. Without that something, it will move forward and tentatively perform the task at hand. Humans and all other higher-order animals operate in this same way in that we also generalize our surroundings. We’ve seen a million different doors, so we know what they do. The same can be said about 99.99% of the rest of the objects that may exist in our environment. For many, however, because we are all different, there will be a select few who will pay just a bit more attention to their environment. They will generalize just a little less and notice the a-symmetrical things and events that occur in their environment just a little more. Most will also dismiss those events but even a smaller subset of that group will fixate on those a-symmetrical events wondering why, when, how come, and a whole host of other questions about the environment. Those people who do have that tendency to fixate a little more, are the potential creative ones. With that tendency to fixate, they are able to pick up small things that 99 times out of 100, would never add any value to life but that 100th time will be the key part necessary for a pivotal process. This is where marijuana works best because it opens the door to ‘the wondering’ by positioning the user into a different orientation from which the a-typical can be reviewed. By changing that orientation, the mind of the creative inherently thinks differently.
How does one change that orientation? Rudyard Kipling in his poem “I keep six honest serving-men” describes the process of using proverbially serving men named “who, what, why, how, where and when” to venture out and examine his experiences and to come back to him and report on their findings.
I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who. I send them over land and sea, I send them east and west; But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest. I let them rest from nine till five, for I am busy then, as well as breakfast, lunch, and tea, for they are hungry men. But different folk have different views; I know a person small— She keeps ten million serving-men, who get no rest at all! She sends’em abroad on her own affairs, from the second she opens her eyes—One million How’s, two million where’s, And seven million Whys!
These are just a few of the servants one should use as they explore the possibilities by incorporating marijuana into their creative tool chest because as one’s mind searches like the torpedo looking for targets, your servants are there to support you in that search and exploration.
The key Takeaway
In leveraging both the bridge to the creative process that marijuana can be along with one’s faithful servants, the user is able to take control of the direction of their thoughts and open the window from which considerations can be made. This is what can be referred to as Mental Alchemy, the process of creating solutions from challenges. In truth, it is a very natural process requiring only the mental discipline to stay directed towards the desired end, the critical thought of how to use one’s servants, a little marijuana, and some patience, nothing more. To aid in this discovery, one can also seek out particular strains that are known to create more tendencies towards an energizing mind-high such as Sativas with specific terpene signatures.
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