The Hundredth Monkey

May 22, 2009

I know this story has been discredited in certain quarters but whether it’s true or not, I like the analogy so I thought I’d post it anyway. It resonates with me as this is how I believe the collective unconscious works and  I feel that even if the story is fabricated, it still works as a myth or fairy tale, in that it reflects some truths about an aspect of humanity.

The Hundredth Monkey

by Ken Keyes Jr.

The Japanese monkey, Macaca fuscata, had been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years.

In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkeys liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant.

An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too.

This cultural innovation was gradually picked up by various monkeys before the eyes of the scientists.

Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable.

Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes.

Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known.

Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes.

Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.


By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them.

The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!

But notice.

A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea —

Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes.

Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind.

Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people.

But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!

Source: The Hundredth Monkey by Ken Keyes Jr.



  1. […] This first article is from a site called Beyond Within, which some of you may find a tad esoteric for your tastes, but which I think has some interesting perspectives. This particular article explains the concept which I introduced here in the ‘Hundredth Monkey’ blog. […]

  2. The 100th monkey tale is one we gals should pay attention to. It could help women, who make up 51% of the population, gain gender parity in Congress!

    Today, women make up a paltry 17%. Imagine how different our lives might be if we had a say in legislation affecting education, child care, and health care– if we had a larger voice in writing laws. Instead, the majority in Congress are white, Anglo Saxon Protestant male lawyers–many millionaires–who all too often draft legislation with ears cocked toward big donor lobbyists.

    If women were in on the decision making, I am convinced they would work to maintain or mend Medicare or a single payer plan, Medicaid, Social Security, green energy, and decaying infrastructure. Instead Congress uses debt “crisis” as an excuse to hack away at the social network the poor, disabled, and elderly depend upon.

    We must spread the word, one monkey at a time, until the critical mass is reached. We must save our democracy for our children and grandchildren. Let’s change the numbers in Congress from 17% female to 50%. We must talk the talk and walk the walk until we can say that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” includes the other 34% of women outside the legislative loop today.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jacqui. Something similar is happening over here in the UK. I agree that there should be equal gender representation in government – however, often it seems that when women achieve this kind of power, they follow the same route as the men. Margaret Thatcher is a prime example here – one of the most ruthless Prime Ministers we’ve had whose legacy is still destroying communities and social care systems. I think there’s a need for humanity to recognise that materialism and looking after number one is neither sustainable nor ultimately fulfilling, whereas a more equal society, built on compassion and consideration for others, could revolutionise our society in a positive and lasting way.

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