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The Cosmic Serpent
by Jeremy Narby
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The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby takes a serious look at how neurogenetic consciousness informs awareness, knowledge, symbolism and culture. His comparison of the ancient cosmic serpent myths to the genetic situation in every living cell reveals the immortal biomolecular wizard behind the curtain of everyday life. His anthropological study, ayahuasca experience and scientific speculations weave a tale of shamans who bring their consciousness down to molecular levels with sophisticated neurotransmitter potions in order to perceive information contained in the coherent visible light emitted by DNA.
Some excerpts from this important book:
Pablo Amaringo says: "A plant may not talk, but there is a spirit in it
that is conscious, that sees everything, which is the soul of the plant,
its essence, what makes it alive." According to Amaringo these spirits are
veritable beings, and humans are also filled with them: "Even the hair,
the eyes, the ears are full of beings. You see all this when ayahuasca is
In their visions, shamans take their consciousness down to the
molecular level and gain access to information related to DNA, which they
call "animate essences" or "spirits." This is where they see double
helixes, twisted ladders, and chromosome shapes. This is how shamanic
cultures have known for millennia that the vital principle is the same for
all living beings, and is shaped like two entwined serpents (or a vine, a
rope, ladder...). DNA is the source of their astonishing botanical and
medicinal knowledge, which can be attained only in defocalized and "nonrational"
states of consciousness, though its results are empirically verifiable.
The myths of these cultures are filled with biological imagery, and the
shamans metaphoric explanations correspond quite precisely to the
descriptions that biologists are starting to provide.
DNA and the cell-based life it codes for are an extremely sophisticated
technology that far surpasses our present-day understanding and that was
initially developed elsewhere than on earth—which it radically transformed
on its arrival some four billion years ago.
If one stretches out the DNA contained in the nucleus of a human cell,
one obtains a two-yard long thread that is only ten atoms wide (and the
two ribbons that make up this filament wrap around each other several
hundred million times). This thread is a billion times longer than its own
width. Relatively speaking, it is as if your little finger stretched from
Paris to Los Angeles.
A thread of DNA is much smaller than the visible light humans perceive.
Even the most powerful optical microscopes can not reveal it, because DNA
is approximately 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of
The nucleus of a cell is equivalent in volume to 2-millionths of a
pinhead. The two-yard thread of DNA packs into this minute volume by
coiling up endlessly on itself, thereby reconciling extreme length and
infinitesimal smallness, like mythical serpents.
In the early 1980s, thanks to the development of a sophisticated
measurement device, a team of scientists demonstrated that the cells of
all living beings emit photons at a rate of up to approximately 100 units
per second and per square centimeter of surface area. They also showed
that DNA was the source of this photon emission.
The wavelength at which DNA emits these photons corresponds exactly to
the narrow band of visible light: "Its spectral distribution ranges at
least from infrared (at about 900 nanometers) to ultraviolet (up to about
200 nanometers)"...DNA emits photons with such regularity that researchers
compare the phenomenon to an "ultra-weak laser." (see History of
Inside the nucleus, DNA coils and uncoils, writhes and wriggles. Scientists often compare the form and movements of this long molecule to those of a snake.
There...is the source of knowledge: DNA, living in water and emitting
photons, like an aquatic dragon spitting fire.
Pregnant by an Anaconda by Pablo Amaringo
The Cosmic Serpent
by Jeremy Narby
The Cosmic Serpent is a great personal adventure story, a fascinating study of anthropology and ethnopharmacology, and, most important, a truly revolutionary look at how knowledge and consciousness may come into being. For ten years, Jeremy Narby explored Amazonian rain forests, the libraries of Europe, and some of the world's most arcane scientific journals, following strange clues, unsuppressible intuitions, and extraordinary coincidences. He collected evidence and researched the seemingly impossible possibility that specific knowledge might somehow be transferred through DNA, the genetic information at the heart of each cell of all living beings, to a drug-prepared consciousness. The beginning of Narby's explorations lay with the Peruvian Indians, who claim that their knowledge of chemical interactions-now scientifically confirmed-has its origins in plant-induced hallucinations and that during these experiences they gain information that could not be acquired by methods of trial and error. Narby demonstrates that indigenous and ancient peoples have known for millennia-and even have drawn-the double helix structure, something conventional science discovered only in 1953. He also suggests that DNA, and the life it codes for at the cellular level, are "minded." In a first-person narrative of scientific discovery that opens new perspectives on biology, the knowledge of indigenous peoples, anthropology, and the limits of rationalism, The Cosmic Serpent reveals how startlingly different the world around us appears when we open our minds to it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Anthropologist Narby's very personal account of his encounters with Amazonian shamanism and his passionately researched syntheses of anthropological, biochemical, neurological and mythological scholarship fascinate but do not convince. His defense of the rights of indigenous peoples against usurpation by capitalist, technological countries is admirable; his methodology is not. Throughout, Narby appears to mistake enthusiasm for evidence and he takes similarities of form (e.g., any helical pattern, hexagon or snakelike figure) to be proof of identity or of casual connection: that the serpent of shamanic lore is DNA. Of his assertion that the Amazonians' specific knowledge of pharmacology derives from hallucinogenic trance (and not from some other more diffuse source), he undertakes no experimental test, offering the typical complaints that the "presuppositions" of science are too narrow to permit the test. Narby does well to question the assumptions of scientists who dismiss all teleology in favor of mechanistic interpretations that are often deeply inadequate, and he does well to inquire into the meaning of the vast commonality of forms between science and world mythologies, but his answers too often come off as groundless invention. He provides an intriguing detective story, wondrous visions and a wealth of fascinating information on genetic science, shamanism, etc., and he also offers some valuable thoughts on the parochial smallness of official science, but, overall, his book's greatest value, perhaps, is as a case study in the excesses of scholarship gone astray.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Intelligence in Nature
by Jeremy Narby
Continuing the journey begun in his acclaimed book The
Cosmic Serpent, the noted anthropologist ventures firsthand into both
traditional cultures and the most up-todate discoveries of
contemporary science to determine nature's secret ways of knowing.
Anthropologist Jeremy Narby has altered how we understand
the Shamanic cultures and traditions that have undergone a worldwide
revival in recent years. Now, in one of his most extraordinary
journeys, Narby travels the globe-from the Amazon Basin to the Far
East-to probe what traditional healers and pioneering researchers
understand about the intelligence present in all forms of life.
Intelligence in Nature presents overwhelming illustrative
evidence that independent intelligence is not unique to humanity
alone. Indeed, bacteria, plants, animals, and other forms of nonhuman
life display an uncanny penchant for self-deterministic decisions,
patterns, and actions.
Narby presents the first in-depth anthropological study
of this concept in the West. He not only uncovers a mysterious thread
of intelligent behavior within the natural world but also probes the
question of what humanity can learn from nature's economy and
knowingness in its own search for a saner and more sustainable way of
From Publishers Weekly
In The Cosmic Serpent, anthropologist Narby hypothesized that Amazonian shamans can "gain access in their visions to information related to DNA" comparable to what molecular biologists know. In this intriguing treatise, he carries his project of syncretizing all forms of knowledge a step further, arguing that animals and plants exhibit intelligence comparable in many ways to that of humans. His shaman friends heartily endorse the idea, regaling him, over a friendly pot of hallucinogenic ayahuasca brew, with conversations they have had in the trance state with animal and plant spirits. For further confirmation, he talks to Western scientists who have done remarkable research on cases of nonhuman intelligence, like bees with abstract reasoning, crows that manufacture standardized tools, pigeons that distinguish between the works of Van Gogh and Chagall about as well as college students do, octopuses that break out of and into their tanks and slime molds that solve mazes. Scientists may find Narby's ongoing efforts to assimilate shamanic mysticism to Western science - he associates, for example, Amazonian legends about humans turning into jaguars with Darwin's theory of evolution - naïve and illogical. But Narby has done his homework - the endnotes themselves make excellent reading - and his well-researched and engagingly presented account of the "braininess" of even literally brainless creatures raises fascinating questions about the boundaries between man and nature.
Shamans Through Time
by Jeremy Narby
A survey of five centuries of writings on the world's
great shamans-the tricksters, sorcerers, conjurers, and healers who
have fascinated observers for centuries.
This collection of essays traces Western civilization's
struggle to interpret and understand the ancient knowledge of cultures
that revere magic men and women-individuals with the power to summon
spirits. As written by priests, explorers, adventurers, natural
historians, and anthropologists, the pieces express the wonder of
strangers in new worlds. Who were these extraordinary magic-makers who
imitated the sounds of animals in the night, or drank tobacco juice
through funnels, or wore collars filled with stinging ants?
Shamans Through Time is a rare chronicle of changing attitudes toward that which is strange and unfamiliar. With essays by such acclaimed thinkers as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Black Elk, Carlos Castaneda, and Frank Boas, it provides an awesome glimpse into the incredible shamanic practices of cultures around the world.
Jeremy Narby, Phd., grew up in Canada and Switzerland,
studied history at the University of Canterbury, and received a
doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University.
While doing work cataloging indigenous uses of rainforest resources to help combat ecological destruction, he asked one of his guides how they knew so much about the plants around them. Narby was informed that the plants themselves tell people how to use them, particularly through the drinking of ayahuasca, an indigenous hallucinogen.
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