Rejecting Stagnation

The Cosmic Serpent

Along the lines of hippy bullshit, I thou roughly enjoyed a book recently named ‘The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge’ by Jeremy Narby.

Given my disposition, I Loved it.

It begins by discussing the consistently hallucinatory source of botanical knowledge among western amazonian shamans. On one side, you have these people who have all this fantastically useful botanical know-how, but claim to receive this knowledge nearly exclusively through plant-induced hallucinations. On the other side, you’ve got the established pharmaceutical agencies and “Western World” in general, which profits from learning and branding the knowledge for mass consumption. On this side, you have a material-rationalist perspective which categorically dismisses the knowledge of these indigenous people as knowledge gained through chance experimentation over millenia at very best.

So, who is right? The rational answer is that, plainly, hallucinations are in your mind. It is impossible to learn new, exclusively external verifiable information, such as the property of a plant, from hallucinations.

So then, paternalism is forced on us through the Trojan of serial rationalism; “Those Indians, woe to them who don’t understand how they’ve been lucky to know what they do. How I hope they will see their Shaman are simply wise or clever, and that the hypnosis of their trances and trappings set them apart and above by culture and habit, not by knowledge or skill.”

Most discount the possibility of such hallucinatory knowledge acquisition by citing their ‘common sense’, or intuition;  a subjective belief rather than a tested theory. Ironic, given the scientific rationalism which is credited the skeptical outlook in the first place.

Being skeptical would be one thing, but the very people synthesising and marketing stuff which comes from these shamanic traditions in the Amazon simply discount their side of the story entirely. Its simply too absurd to consider; the ‘primitives’ have clung to what works over millenia, and have no idea how they found it or why it works, no matter what they say.

The book goes through the authors exploration of the gap between shamanism and science, considering some outlandish possibilities for the source of consciousness and the interconnectedness of all life. That said, he maintains a healthy distance from his own beliefs which helps keep a fair-handed tone throughout the book; Still, he goes on to suggest that DNA may be emitting biophotons to communicate with other DNA, forming a sort of biological Internet which can be ‘tuned into’ through various techniques, that DNA is perhaps innately conscious, and even that it probably came from space.

But still, I really liked, it, and heartily recommend it 🙂 A good balance of philosophy, mystery, and reasonable science makes for a good mix I think most anyone can appreciate, even if their conclusions are entirely different.



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