Consciousness theorist Tony Wright argues that human evolution stalled around 200,000 years ago, an event that may have been recorded in the world’s myths as “the fall from grace”, humanity’s rude ejection from a “golden age”. According to the theory, climate change forced humans from tropical forests where a high fruit diet had fuelled the rapid development of the brain. Beyond the forests, with fewer nutritional components present, the brain degenerated, a trend which included the growing domination of the left-hemisphere over an actually better preserved right.
According to Wright, unless we change our diet – or, advanced molecular engineering, as he prefers to call it – we will continue our slide and, via our increasingly destructive actions, continue to literally destroy our once perceived Eden. There is a mountain of objective evidence backing up his theory, he claims, which points to perceptual and behavioural impairment and “a species wide insanity”.
In an interview with The Eternities podcast, he said, “[With the dominance of the left hemisphere] we have the emergence of patriarchal and hierarchical systems typically devoid of any kind of empathy or compassion or any grasp of reality whatsoever, creating a civilisation in their image, and often coercing the rest of humanity to follow suit”.
According to the theory, it was oral sex which drove the rapid evolution of the human brain. “If you’re eating fruit, it’s oral sex,” said Wright. Competing for the attention of humans, it was these “swollen sex organs” of plants, bulging with complex biochemistry, which powered human neural evolution in a runaway feedback loop. (Despite the cheap bait-and-switch method employed in the title of this article, the “switch” is actually a far sexier topic, suggesting as it does that we should all be experiencing a far more pleasurable, sensual and fulfilling life, in every area.)
According to Wright, methods exist to temporarily correct this imbalance. The dominant left hemisphere can be inhibited and the right can be better fed, quickly providing amazing glimpses that can change one’s perception forever. He said in the podcast, “[We can have experiences] that tell you something else lives in here as well, and it’s a whole lot better. We have legislation and social taboos [that] tell us these things work because there are legislative approaches to stop us using them. It’s a guide to what actually works.”
He went on, “We have living traditions still on the planet where people have used neurochemical analogues [such as trance dance, sleep deprivation and psychedelics] like an emergency approach … to stimulate the right hemisphere sufficiently that it can partially reverse dominance, it can partially become self-aware. It’s a very different self-awareness to what we’re used to. The question is: is what we’re used to actually real? Do we see the world as it’s supposed to be? The physics tells us we don’t. The ecology tells us we don’t. And yet we trust it as if it’s real.”
Wright makes an interesting analogy: “[If the brain is] like a musical instrument and the music is our sense of self, we know that the tiniest changes [in an instrument] can make a massive difference, including just changing the varnish and so on. If, in terms of our neural system, the strings have been broken or badly damaged, if it’s been dropped, if it’s been left out in the rain, [which is the equivalent of] this massive shift from the tropical forest – we’ve lost over 95 per cent of the most complex chemical cocktail we know – that should be shocking. It’s like stripping out 95 per cent of the technology from a 747 and then saying it’s the same, it looks the same. Who’s going to get on it? Nobody would go anywhere near it. Our neural system is way more complex than that, and the orthodox evidence suggests that at least its origins were in the most complex molecular environment we know. And that’s gone.”
Dennis McKenna has called the theory “stunningly innovative” and wrote the foreword to Wright’s 2007 book, Left in the Dark: The Biological Origins of the Fall From Grace, co-authored with Graham Gynn. A new edition is set for release in 2014, with the new title Return to the Brain of Eden: Restoring the Connection between Neurochemistry and Consciousness, which Wright hopes might stimulate, what he believes, essential research. If he’s correct, it might very well be our best way back to the fabled garden.