Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review: "The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge"

 While I was on my honeymoon earlier this month at Cape May, I brought along a book to read on the beach that as been in my queue for awhile.

by Jeremy Narby

The author Jeremy Narby begins the book with the mystery of ayahuasca- a powerful psychedelic brew originating from the jungles of The Amazon in South America. This botanical, mind & soul-altering concoction is created from a combination of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, which contains several alkaloids that act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). The other ingredient, a shrub Psychotria viridis,  contains the primary psychoactive compound, dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The MAOIs from the B. cappi are required for DMT of the P. viridis to be orally active & produce the visionary experience.

The question that has presented itself is- how did the indigenous tribes know how to combine these two plants, out of thousands in the jungle, to create a specific chemical reaction to create the desired effect? The ayahuascero shamans claim that the plants themselves revealed this truth to their ancestors.

This idea of some kind of intelligence in the plant relaying this information creates another question- one that is the main premise of this book: Can ALL life communicate on levels (down the cellular and molecular scale) that science might not be currently aware of, & that does not involve the use of symbolic language that we humans are familiar with? Could the DNA molecule itself, besides being an encoder of information, also be capable of communicating and transmitting information, even perhaps somehow into the level of consciousness?

In ayahuasca trances, glowing, vibrating snakes and serpents imparting knowledge are a common motif. The author investigates whether these might be visualizations of the continually pulsating, light-emitting  DNA strands themselves, somehow communicating information to the emergent neurological phenomenon that we recognize as the human mind. Perhaps it also goes the other way, and our mind when unlocked in a certain manner can be transported down to directly interact and perceive at the scale of cells and molecules.

  Serpents by TAS Visuals

The Newtonian mechanistic view of the Universe, especially when it comes to life, is completely inadequate for having a true, holistic view of the world. However despite the awe-inspiring intricacy of life at the microscopic scale & weirdness of phenomena at the quantum level, science still has trouble grasping with the ephemeral nature of mind and consciousness as anything other than brain activity. This is understandable, since it is hard to quantify the idea of a universal consciousness, patterns of coherent energetic information transmission that exist EVERYWHERE- pervading all aspects of this Universe, at all scales..

This is the axis mundi that I have already mentally traveled up and down many times, and was guided through once again by the author as he connected the systems & processes of life from the microcosm to the macrocosm.

Underlying this quest that the author has written about, is the idea that the wisdom and traditions of native people should be preserved along with their land & environment. The profit-driven juggernaut we call the pharmaceutical industry cannot be allowed to exploit healing knowledge and plants that exist for the benefit of everyone. Although science should have the freedom to learn and understand as much of our reality as possible, that knowledge should not be used to restrict and refine discovery for the selfish gain of soulless megacorporations.

I enjoyed reading The Cosmic Serpent, and it was the perfect mix of science and mysticism for a syncretist such as myself. It made me think deeply about biology, spirituality, ecology, anthropology, and the complexity of life & reality itself. It was a relatively short book, but full of mind-expanding insights and information that I'd highly recommend.

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