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Did Plants Give Us Imagination?


This is a wonderful talk with ethnobotanist, Dr Dennis McKenna at a conference by the wonderful folk at Plant Consciousness in Wales. Imagination makes us human, yet we rarely stop to consider where the imagination came from. If evolution leaves nature’s creatures with traits that help their survival and reproduction, what did it intend when it created the human imagination? And from a physiological perspective, how did the imagination have come about? Dennis talks about how our ancestors’ interactions with plants over millions of years may have laid the foundation for imagination.


The biochemical co-evolutionary relationship between plants and insects are well-studied. The same principles apply to co-evolution with herbivores, which includes humans. Interactions between plant chemical compounds and our complex neural machinery, which can trigger synesthesia – the nexus where sound, vision and symbol come together – may have been the stimulus for the cognitive evolution of the mind. Many have experienced these effects in the form of the psychedelic experience, but their impact on our culture predates the 60’s by several million years. In fact, plants may have given us the ability to understand meaning and abstractions, and therefore laid the foundation for language. And with language came the ability to share ideas across continents and centuries, which created the foundations for culture.

To watch the talk click here.

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