|The Cosmic Serpent — DNA and The Origins of Knowledge||by: Jeremy Narby|
|“Those who love wisdom must investigate many things.” – Heraclitus|
This adventure in science and imagination, which the Medical Tribune said might herald "a Copernican revolution for the life sciences," leads the reader through unexplored jungles and uncharted aspects of mind to the heart of knowledge.
In a first-person narrative of scientific discovery that opens new perspectives on biology, 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.
The Cosmic Serpent is doubly themed.
- One theme is that of the symbol of the creator serpent (or twin serpents) as the source of knowledge and of all life itself.
- The other theme is that of DNA which in our modern western world-view is the source of all life and all organic information.
- These two threads are wound about in a spiraling narrative like the double helix of the DNA molecule or the twin serpents found in the timeless myths of cultures the world over.
The Cosmic Serpent is a major breakthrough for not only the field of entheogens but for all science and perhaps religion too. Originally published in French as Serpent Cosmique, this book presents the journey of a western scientist who ventures past the primitive superstitions of modern anthropology and takes part in a millennia-long scientific research program of Amazonian shamanism; wherein he learns of their seers’ profound communication with other species via experiential access to DNA.
Chapter 1 ♦ Forest Television
Chapter 2 ♦ Anthropologists and Shamans
Chapter 3 ♦ The Mother of The Mother of Tobacco is A Snake
Chapter 4 ♦ Enigma in Rio
Chapter 5 ♦ Defocalizing
Chapter 6 ♦ Seeing Correspondences
Chapter 7 ♦ Myths and Molecules
Chapter 8 ♦ Through The Eyes of An Ant
Chapter 9 ♦ Receptors and Transmitters
Chapter 10 ♦ Biology's Blind Spot
Chapter 11 ♦ "What Took You So Long?"
Bibliography | Index
Jeremy Narby (born 1959 in Montreal, Canada) is an anthropologist and writer.
Narby grew up in Canada and Switzerland, studied history at the University of Canterbury, and received a doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University.
Narby spent several years living with the Ashaninca in the Peruvian Amazon cataloging indigenous uses of rainforest resources to help combat ecological destruction.
Narby has written three books, as well as sponsored an expedition to the rainforest for biologists and other scientists to examine indigenous knowledge systems and the utility of Ayahuasca in gaining knowledge.
Since 1989, Narby has been working as the Amazonian projects director for the Swiss NGO, Nouvelle Planète
“This is perhaps one of the most important things I learned during this investigation: We see what we believe, and not just the contrary; and to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe.”
“When I started reading the literature of molecular biology, I was stunned by certain descriptions. Admittedly, I was on the lookout for anything unusual, as my investigation had led me to consider that DNA and its cellular machinery truly were an extremely sophisticated technology of cosmic origin. But as I pored over thousands of pages of biological texts, I discovered a world of science fiction that seemed to confirm my hypothesis. Proteins and enzymes were described as 'miniature robots,' ribosomes were 'molecular computers,' cells were 'factories,' DNA itself was a 'text,' a 'program,' a 'language,' or 'data.' One only had to do a literal reading of contemporary biology to reach shattering conclusions; yet most authors display a total lack of astonishment and seem to consider that life is merely 'a normal physiochemical phenomenon.”
“Shamanism resembles an academic discipline (such as anthropology or molecular biology); with its practitioners, fundamental researchers, specialists, and schools of thought it is a way of apprehending the world that evolves constantly. One thing is certain: Both indigenous and mestizo shamans consider people like the Shipibo-Conibo, the Tukano, the Kamsá, and the Huitoto as the equivalents to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and the Sorbonne; they are the highest reference in matters of knowledge. In this sense, ayahuasca-based shamanism is an essentially indigenous phenomenon. It belongs to the indigenous people of Western Amizonia, who hold the keys to a way of knowing that they have practiced without interruption for at least five thousand years. In comparison, the universities of the Western world are less than nine hundred years old.”
“What if it were true that nature speaks in signs and that the secret to understanding its language consists in noticing similarities in shape or in form?” ― Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
“In truth, ayahuasca is the television of the forest.”
“The rational approach start from the idea that everything is explainable and that mystery is in some sense the enemy. This means that it prefers pejorative, and even wrong, answers to admitting its own lack of understanding.”
“An indigenous culture with sufficient territory, and bilingual and intercultural education, is in a better position to maintain and cultivate its mythology and shamanism. Conversely, the confiscation of their lands and imposition of foreign education, which turns their young people into amnesiacs, threatens the survival not only of these people, but of an entire way of knowing. It is as if one were burning down the oldest universities in the world and their libraries, one after another — thereby sacrificing the knowledge of the world's future generations.”
“Wisdom requires not only the investigation of many things, but contemplation of the mystery.”
“Nonetheless, gazing out the train window at a random sample of the Western world, I could not avoid noticing a kind of separation between human beings and all other species. We cut ourselves off by living in cement blocks, moving around in glass-and-metal bubbles, and spending a good part of our time watching other human beings on television. Outside, the pale light of an April sun was shining down on a suburb. I opened a newspaper and all I could find were pictures of human beings and articles about their activities. There was not a single article about another species. ”
“According to Eliade, the shamanic ladder is the earliest version of the idea of an axis of the world, which connects the different levels of the cosmos, and is found in numerous creation myths in the form of a tree.”
“During this investigation, I became familiar with certain limits of the rational gaze. It tends to fragment reality and to exclude complementarity and the association of contraries from it's field of vision...The rational approach starts from the idea that everything is explainable and that mystery is in some sense the enemy. This means that it prefers pejorative, and even wrong, answers to admitting its own lack of understanding.”
“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. 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. ”
“This is an old problem: Knowledge calls for more knowledge,”
“One thing became clear as I thought back to my stay in Quirishari. Every time I had doubted one of my consultants' explanations, my understanding of the Ashaninca view of reality had seized up; conversely, on the rare occasions that I had managed to silence my doubts, my understanding of local reality had been enhanced — as if there were times when one had to believe in order to see, rather than the other way around.”
“All the peoples in the world who talk of a cosmic serpent have been saying as much for millennia. He had not seen it because the rational gaze is forever focalized and can examine only one thing at a time. It separates things to understand them, including the truly complementary. It is the gaze of the specialist, who sees the fine grain of a necessarily restricted field of vision. ”
“Nonetheless, gazing out the train window at a random sample of the the Western world, I could not avoid noticing a kind of separation between human beings and all other species. We cut ourselves off by living in cement blocks, moving around in glass-and-metal bubbles, and spending a good part of our time watching other human beings on television. Outside, the pale light of an April sun was shining down on a suburb. I opened a newspaper and all I could find were pictures of human beings and articles about their activities. There was not a single article about another species.”
“People’s bodies sometimes know things before people themselves do. In a controlled experiment, scientists asked people to draw cards from four decks, two of which were heavily skewed with penalties. Skin measurements showed that people contemplating the bad decks began sweating more profusely before they themselves could verbalize an intuition about which decks to avoid. Such research shows that emotions are a mix of brain states and body experiences, which include increased heart rate, hormonal activity, and input from the gut brain. It also shows that the body plays a role in the reasoning process. Having a gut feeling is not just a metaphor.”
“Arikawa is the scientist who discovered that butterflies have color vision, and that their tiny brains contain sophisticated visual systems. He also discovered that butterflies have eyes on their genitals.”
“We see what we believe, and not just the contrary; and to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe.”
Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist, discusses the intelligence of life, nature, ayahuasca and DNA communication.
- The interview also discusses how modern man has overlooked the inherent intelligence in nature.
- Narby discusses his experiences with the diplomat plant, Ayahuasca, and his work with the Ashaninca in the eruvian Amazon.
- While there, Narby also cataloged indigenous uses of rainforest resources to help combat ecological destruction.
- Narby is the author of: The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Intelligence in Nature and Psychotropic Mind: The World According to Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Shamanism.
For more information: Jeremy Narby on Nature & Life Intelligence
Published on Feb 21, 2015 by TreeTV
In this mesmerizing talk, Jeremy Narby shares the findings from his groundbreaking book Intelligence in Nature.
- He describes his quest around the globe to chronicle how leading-edge scientists are studying intelligence in nature and how nature learns.
- He uncovers a universal thread of highly intelligent behavior within the natural world, and asks the question: What can humanity learn from nature's economy and knowingness?
- Weaving together issues of animal cognition, evolutionary biology and psychology, he challenges contemporary cientific concepts and reveals a much deeper view of the nature of intelligence and of our kinship with all life.
This presentation took place at the 2005 National Bioneers Conference and is part of the Ecological Design, Vol. 1 and Nature, Culture and Spirit, Vol. 1 Collections.
Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges.
To experience talks like this, please join us at the Bioneers National Conference each October, and regional Bioneers Resilient Community Network gatherings held nationwide throughout the year.
For more information on Bioneers, please visit http://www.bioneers.org
Published on Dec 3, 2013 by Bioneers
The Cosmic Serpent reads more like a mystery novel than a standard anthropological study. I was particularly impressed by the honesty of the account, the cross-disciplinary nature of the argument, and the courage and reasoned conviction with which the author makes his argument.
Much is written lately about “indigenous knowledge,” especially in the field of traditional plant and medical knowledge. The vast number of indigenous societies in the Amazon region have received much fame recently in this area because of their knowledge and use of hallucinogenic materials. Modern pharmaceutical companies are especially interested in this knowledge, and many indigenous leaders and organizations have spoken about the need to protect their intellectual and cultural property rights, as well as to capture some of the economic benefits of such knowledge.
Jeremy Narby’s book places the discussion of indigenous knowledge in a deeper philosophical and cosmological framework, arguing for an epistemic correspondence between the knowledge of Amazonian shamans and modern biologists. The argument which Narby makes mines and reinterprets many of the sources in anthropology and biology on the subject. Some may argue that what Narby has found is mere chance or metaphoric correspondence, while others will appreciate the subtleties and truth value of the argument.
—Shelton H. Davis, Senior Sociologist World Bank
There is superstition in avoiding superstition, as Bacon once remarked, and I honor Jeremy Narby for finding his way through the numerous thickets that scientific reason has left behind in its attempts to turn plain truths of experience into the superstition it avoids. The Cosmic Serpent deals with the visionary experience that comes from taking ayahuasca, and Mr. Narby finds the claim that a plant means what it looks like is no superstition but a fact of experience: moreover, that the images of snakes and ladders that accompany the experience refer not only to the appearance of the ayahuasca vine but to that of the DNA spiral. To affirm this likeness he marshals the evidence of molecular biology and leaves the reader with the stunning intimation that the ayahuascan view of the world is none other than the scientific view seen from another perspective, that of selfhood rather than of no self at all.
Self is one topic that science is always superstitiously avoiding, and its biological origin has been called a veritable enigma. Narby’s book is a most intriguing and informative essay in restoring self to its proper place in the scheme of things, and makes the enigma look more like an open secret. It confirms my belief that the new paradigm we have come to expect will have the heart of the old one to give it life, and I see the book’s cosmic serpent as the herald of this wonderful moment.
—Francis Huxley, social anthropologist Author of The Way of the Sacred
Reviewed by Robert Forte, 7/24/2006
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge is a major breakthrough for not only the field of entheogens but for all science and perhaps religion too. Originally published in French as Serpent Cosmique, this book presents the journey of a western scientist who ventures past the primitive superstitions of modern anthropology and takes part in a millennia-long scientific research program of Amazonian shamanism; wherein he learns of their seers’ profound communication with other species via experiential access to DNA.
In 1985 Jeremy Narby, a Stanford-trained anthropologist, was doing fieldwork for his dissertation in the Amazon Pichis Valley among the Ashaninca people. Inquiring how their extensive botanical-medicinal knowledge was derived he heard from a shaman that “one learns these things by drinking ayahuasca.” Narby thought the shaman was joking, and he had intended to leave that finding out of his report: “For me, in 1985, the ayahuasqueros’ world represented a gray area that was taboo for the research I was conducting.” But an “unexpected setback” caused Narby to move to the neighboring community of Cajonari where he was invited to partake of ayahuasca himself. Like a modern Adam he writes:
- “Deep hallucinations submerged me. I suddenly found myself surrounded by two gigantic boa constrictors that seemed fifty feet long… I see a spectacular world of brilliant lights, and in the middle of these hazy thoughts, the snakes start talking to me without words. They explain to me that I am just a human being. I feel my mind crack, and in the fissures, I see the bottomless arrogance of my presuppositions. It is profoundly true that I am just a human being, and, most of the time, I have the impression of understanding everything, whereas here I find myself in a more powerful reality that I do not understand at all and that, in my arrogance, I did not even suspect existed. I feel like crying in view of the enormity of these revelations. Then it dawns on me that this self pity is a part of my arrogance. I feel so ashamed that I no longer dare feel ashamed. Nevertheless, I have to throw up again… I have never felt so completely humble as I did in that moment.”
From here Dr. Narby soars past the methodological limitations of modern anthropology and deciphers “the main enigma:” “the Ashaninca’s extensive botanical knowledge comes from plant induced hallucinations” via a sophisticated interdisciplinary study that includes direct personal experience of ancient shamanic mysteries, extensive comparative structural analysis of cross-cultural symbolism, and molecular biology. The result is the testable hypothesis “that the human mind can communicate in a defocalized consciousness with the global network of DNA based life.”
Deftly written, one hopes this book will cause quite a stir. It has already been reviewed in The New York Times. It is a major step toward western science’s reconsideration of the validity of shamanic states. The book’s neutral tone transcends the reactionary politics that infect entheogens within medical research, while avoiding tiresome theological questions. Here is pure exploratory science. Entheogens as heuristic.
Let us note that direct communication with DNA is not groundbreaking news in the psychedelic literature and it is remarkable that Narby, in his extensive scholarship, missed this. “To my knowledge,” he writes, “the only other mention of a link between hallucinogens and DNA is by Lamb (1985) who suggests in passing: ‘perhaps on some unknown unconscious level the genetic encoder DNA provides a bridge to biological memories of all living things…’.” Narby has completely missed Dr. Timothy Leary’s Info-Psychology wherein the subject is first presented:
- “When the seventh circuit of the nervous system is activated, the signals from DNA become conscious. This experience is chaotic and confusing to the unprepared person — thousands of genetic memories flash by, the molecular family-picture-album of species consciousness and evolution. This experience provides glimpses and samples of the broad design of the multi-billion year old genetic panorama. …genetic engineers will use as their basic instrument their own brains, open to and conscious of neurogenetic signals. Only the DNA neuron link up can produce the immortality and symbiotic linkage with other species… The key to higher intelligence is direct DNA-RNA neural communication among species.”
And although the ayahuasca art of Pablo Amaringo is a frequent guide in Narby’s proof, he misses where Jonathan Ott presents Amaringo’s painting of the double helix of DNA on the cover of Pharmacotheon:
- “The serpentine phantasmagoria of the visionary realm is dominated by the universal archetype of the Tree of Life… as well as the universal chemical liana of life on this planet — the double helix of DNA. The magical phlegm, azure essence of logos, the magical song or icaro of the yachaj made manifest, flows forth… like the serpents of creation from the woman’s womb; like the spermatozoa, human serpents of fecundity rising.”
Narby’s efforts expand and clarify Leary’s assertions and Ott’s poetic insight in such a way that should reach many skeptical readers outside the entheogen community. The example has been set for how entheogenic visions can elucidate other mysteries of creation: the appearance of matter, the incarnation of the soul, the destiny of our planet…
Sewn-and-glued hardcover, 257 pp; 2 page index, 5 page bibliographic index; 23 page bibliography, plus 58 pages of notes. This book is also available in paperback.
[Robert Forte is the editor of Entheogens and the Future of Religion and Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In.]
Originally Published In : The Entheogen Review, 1998
Reviewed by Rendi Case, 3/13/2007
The Cosmic Serpent is doubly themed. One theme is that of the symbol of the creator serpent (or twin serpents) as the source of knowledge and of all life itself. The other theme is that of DNA which in our modern western world-view is the source of all life and all organic information. These two threads are wound about in a spiraling narrative like the double helix of the DNA molecule or the twin serpents found in the timeless myths of cultures the world over.
The myths involving the serpent or twin serpents as the source of life and knowledge emerge from the ancient past with their tails hidden in the mists of prehistory. At the head of modern knowledge we have molecular biology and genetics; the study of that most serpentine of molecules – DNA. Like the Ouroboros, the cosmic snake of time and eternity that encircles the world swallowing its tail in a symbol of both unity and infinity, this book is an attempt to merge this cutting edge of scientific knowledge with the ancient source of wisdom steeped deeply in the shadows of our past.
The author, Jeremy Narby, holds a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University. In 1985 he began his fieldwork of two years in the Peruvian Amazon to earn his doctorate in anthropology. He wanted to show the Western world that the indigenous people of the Amazon basin knew best how to use their own land because international “development” agencies typically assert that indigenous people do not know how to use their own land “rationally” and use this rationalization to justify the “confiscation” (theft) of these people’s lands to use and exploit for their own greed and in the process destroy crucial ecosystems forever. Narby’s agenda was to establish protection of the territories of these Amazonian people by demonstrating that only they know how to best use their own land because they had intimate, sophisticated and pragmatic knowledge of their land. To appeal to Western civilization for support of his efforts, Narby had to emphasize the practical nature of these people’s knowledge of their land.
However, it was inevitable that in the course of his study with these people Narby would come up against the enigma of ayahuasca, the plant-based entheogenic brew par excellence of the Western Amazon rain forest. Commonly, the various ayahuasca using people of the Amazon tell us that they gain their knowledge of the many properties and uses of their local plants by consulting ayahuasca. In the visionary state induced by this brew, they are told many practical things; which plants to combine and use as a tranquilizer in which to dip their hunting darts, which plants to use to cure a given disease and how to use them, what plant to use to treat poisonous snake bites and so on. Narby felt that he had to avoid mentioning the fundamentally irrational origins of these people’s pragmatic knowledge because it would undermine his basic assertion that these people were perfectly rational and practical people.
As Narby points out, these people are very practical. But from our modern materialist perspectives, the source of their pharmacological knowledge is not at all rational because this knowledge is derived from what we would call hallucinations.
The modern Western view would deny that hallucinations could provide reliable and practical information, but if the knowledge these people gain from ayahuasca is merely delusional then how is it that this knowledge is so practical? Why does it work? If pharmaceutical companies make millions from the pharmacological knowledge gained from these people can we really dismiss their botanical knowledge as irrational or superstitious? Yet lawmakers in Europe and the United States assure us that ayahuasca is a dangerous drug with no medical or spiritual value.
While conducting his fieldwork, Narby stayed with the Ashaninca and Quirishari people of the Peruvian Amazon. When he questioned them about how they learned all they knew about their local plants they would tell him that they learned what they knew from ayahuasca. Of course, Narby could not believe that a hallucinogen could impart real knowledge.
In the book Narby says, “After about a year in Quirishari, I had come to see that my hosts’ practical sense was much more reliable in their environment than my academically informed understanding of reality. Their empirical knowledge was undeniable. However, their explanations concerning the origins of their knowledge was unbelievable to me.”
One day while inquiring about these matters he was told that if he wanted to know the true answers to his questions he would simply have to take ayahuasca with them and see for himself. Narby accepted this offer and had a life changing experience. After drinking ayahuasca, Narby had a profound life changing experience. His view on himself and reality shifted from an intellectually superior know-it-all to a mere human being that has no real understanding of reality at all. In his experience, these thoughts were telepathically imparted to him by two giant snakes. There was more to his ayahuasca experience, but these are the elements that had the important impact on him.
In 1986 Narby returned to civilization to write his dissertation and two years later he became a doctor of anthropology. Following this he traveled around the Amazon working with indigenous organizations to earn them official governmental recognition of their territories. To these ends he also did fund-raising work in Europe. To appeal to benefactors Narby emphasized the practical knowledge of these Amazonian people, deliberately omitting the enigma of ayahuasca.
After some years of this kind of work, Narby set back to reflect upon and write about the mystery of ayahuasca. Much of this book is the story of how we came to write the book; a sort of boot-strapping process. Months of research and note-taking led Narby to many different topics including shamanism, ethnopharmacology, serpent myths, DNA, quantum physics and more.
As anyone who studies mythology, mysticism and occult traditions knows, the symbol of the serpent of the twin serpents as the creator of life is astoundingly ever-present as is what has been called the axis mundi or axis of the world. This latter concept has been symbolized as the world tree, the pillar of the worlds, the ladder connecting the earth to the upper and lower realms and so on. Often we see this central axis of the macrocosm mirrored in the central axis of the microcosm of the self in the form of the twin serpents. Consider the kundalini snakes that spiral up the spine in eastern mysticism or the spiraling snakes of the ancient Greek caduceus that is still used as the symbol of the medical profession. These symbols are found in ancient Egypt, in Sumerian and Babylonian frescos, among Siberian shamans who have never seen real snakes in their lives; consider Quetzalcoatl, the serpent-god of the Aztecs, the rainbow serpent and creator god of Australian aborigines, the Midgard serpent of Nordic myths wound about the world tree, the serpent and the Tree of Knowledge in the Judeo-Christian mythology and so on.
Through chance, synchronicity or some other cause Narby encountered many uncanny connections between this symbol complex and DNA without really knowing what it all meant. Here is the main thrust of Narby’s book, fueled by his own powerful experience with the two serpents he encountered in his ayahuasca experience years earlier.
Narby developed the hypothesis that somehow, through what Eliade called “archaic techniques of ecstasy” shamans receive information from DNA in the form of visions. Indeed, it is almost a universal truism that shamans gain their unique view on things by traveling up and down the axis mundi of the macrocosm or the microcosmic axis of the self.
Through his studies, Narby became engrossed in the molecular biology of DNA and he gives us many correlations between DNA and the shamanic world view. Close minded readers may find these to be mere circumstantial coincidences and gullible readers may find these to be proof that Narby’s hypothesis is correct. These correlations are truly astounding but far from conclusive. Narby does not pretend to have final answers but he definitely forces the reader to take these questions seriously as correlation after correlation pile up. These correlations or coincidences seemingly never end but Narby actually misses a few; that the ancient Chinese system of divination known as the I Ching there are 64 different symbols to cover the totality of possible phenomena in the universe and that there are 64 different codons or strands in DNA, or that DNA is made from 22 different amino acids and that in the ancient Greco-Egyptian system of the Tarot there are 22 cards in the major arcane sequence to cover the totality of possible phenomena in the universe but I digress or that the final card in this series uses the serpent as a symbol of the macrocosm of the world and eternity.
As many a student of the occult, mysticism and mythology has found, once you start unraveling these uncanny correlations and connections, it just gets deeper and deeper and that the more one looks for answers, the more questions arise without answers. There seems to be no end to this sort of inquiry. Indeed, as exhaustive as Narby seems to be in the exploration of his hypothesis, his book really only scratches the surface of the seemingly endless mystery we encounter in the shamanic realms.
The following passages sum up Narby’s hypothesis and position:
- “I began my investigation with the enigma of “plant communication.” I went on to accept the idea that hallucinations could be the source of verifiable information. And I ended up with a hypothesis suggesting that a human mind can communicate in defocalized consciousness with the global network of DNA-based life. All this contradicts principles of Western knowledge.”
- “Nevertheless, my hypothesis is testable. A test would consist of seeing whether institutionally respected biologists could find biomolecular information in the hallucinatory world of ayahuasqueros… My hypothesis suggests that what scientists call DNA corresponds to the animate essences that shamans say communicate with them and animate all life forms. Modern biology, however, is founded on the notion that nature is not animated by an intelligence and therefore cannot communicate. (page 132)”
- “To sum up: My hypothesis is based on the idea that DNA in particular and nature in general are minded. (page 145)”
Along the way, we are given a dizzying dose of the mysterious nature of molecular biology. It is easy for the non-biologist to assume that this science is all tedious details of well-understood mechanisms but as Narby shows us, this science is just now tapping into the truly miraculous, bizarre and still fundamentally puzzling inner workings of the core of life.
It can not go unmentioned here that René Descartes became the “founder of modern philosophy” and the “father of modern mathematics” (as he is generally considered) after being inspired by a dream revelation in which an angel came to him and told him that “the conquest of nature is to be achieved through measure and number” and that this angelic revelation is the basis for the modern scientific method. Also, we should note that Kekulé discovered the benzene ring after dreaming about the Ouroboric serpent in the shape of a circle, swallowing its own tail. The idea that dreams could be a verifiable source of important scientific knowledge seems contradictory to science itself, yet many scientists have gained important knowledge this way. Here’s an even more startling example that brings us closer to the dual theme of Narby’s book; towards the end of his life, Francis Crick, the nobel-prize winning father of modern genetics confided a secret he kept for almost 50 years – that he hit upon the double helix structure of DNA while on LSD (see reference below). With this example of scientific knowledge derived from a hallucinogen, we see the snake swallowing its tail.
The Cosmic Serpent is similar to Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations to the extent that both books give us accounts of Amazon excursions and experiences with plant hallucinogens imparting visions and ideas fecund with profound hypotheses involving the molecular biology of DNA. The Cosmic Serpent is similar to The Invisible Landscape by Terence and Dennis McKenna in that both of these books extrapolate upon such hypotheses in dizzying detail.
It should be noted that The Cosmic Serpent contains little in the way of descriptions of the ayahuasca experience. Readers looking for good trip stories would do better to look elsewhere.
This book is by no means light reading. Though not nearly as dense with complex details and wild extrapolations as the McKenna brother’s The Invisible Landscape, The Cosmic Serpent may contain far too detailed a discussion of molecular biology for many readers, though one certainly does not need a background in biology to understand Narby’s book, only an appreciation for the fascinating mysteries this science is just scratching the surface of.
Also, this book contains many long footnotes that some readers may find distracting or tedious while others may appreciate these details. Personally I found these details interesting but distracting. Many pages had multiple footnotes and sometimes the footnotes for a given page were longer than the page itself.
Overall, however, it is my opinion that this is a fascinating book. It brings up correlations or coincidences, raises questions and suggests ramifications that are too profound and challenging to go unexamined. The intelligent, discerning, but open-minded reader with a passion for the deepest mysteries of life and with an interest in both shamanism and science would be likely to find this book to be both important and amazing.
It is perhaps fitting to close this review with a quote from the book, “All things considered, wisdom requires not only the investigation of many things, but contemplation of the mystery.”
Rees A. “Nobel Prize genius Crick was high on LSD when he discovered the secret of life” August 8, 2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd. (London)
Originally Published In : Amazon.com
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:
Some biologists describe DNA as an "ancient high biotechnology," containing "over a hundred trillion times as much information by volume as our most sophisticated information storage devices." Could one still speak of technology in these circumstances? Yes, because there is no other word to qualify this duplicable, information-storing molecule. DNA is only ten atoms wide and as such constitutes a sort of ultimate technology: It is organic and so miniturized that it approaches the limits of material existence.
Shamans, meanwhile, claim that the vital principle that animates all living creatures comes from the cosmos and is minded.
As ayahuasquero 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 strong."
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 visible light.
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 Biophotonics)
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 from the Gallery of Usko-Ayar art
Could you sum up your book "The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge"?
Research indicates that shamans access an intelligence, which they say is nature's, and which gives them information that has stunning correspondences with molecular biology.
Your hypothesis of a hidden intelligence contained within the DNA of all living things is interesting. What is this intelligence?
Intelligence comes from the Latin inter-legere, to choose between.
- There seems to be a capacity to make choices operating inside each cell in our body, down to the level of individual proteins and enzymes.
- DNA itself is a kind of "text" that functions through a coding
- system called "genetic code," which is strikingly similar to codes used by human beings.
- Some enzymes edit the RNA transcript of the DNA text and add new letters to it; any error made during this editing can be fatal to the entire organism; so these enzymes are consistently making the right choices; if they don't, something often goes wrong leading to cancer and other diseases.
- Cells send one another signals, in the form of proteins and molecules.
- These signals mean: divide, or don't divide, move, or don't move, kill yourself, or stay alive.
- Any one cell is listening to hundreds of signals at the same time, and has to integrate them and decide what to do.
- How this intelligence operates is the question.
DNA has essentially maintained its structure for 3.5 billion years. What role does DNA play in our evolution?
DNA is a single molecule with a double helix structure;
- It is two complementary versions of the same "text" wrapped around each other;
- This allows it to unwind and make copies of itself: twins!
- This twinning mechanism is at the heart of life since it began. Without it, one cell could not become two, and life would not exist.
- And, from one generation to the next, the DNA text can also be modified, so it allows both constancy and transformation.
- This means that beings can be the same and not the same.
One of the mysteries is what drives the changes in the DNA text in evolution.
- DNA has apparently been around for billions of years in its current form in virtually all forms of life.
- The old theory — random accumulation of errors combined with natural selection — does not fully explain the data currently generated by genome sequencing.
- The question is wide open.
The structure of DNA as we know it is made up of letters and thus has a specific text and language. You could say our bodies are made up of language, yet we assume that speech arises from the mind. How do we access this hidden language?
The symbol of the Cosmic Serpent, the snake, is a central theme in your story, and in your research you discover that the snake forms a major part of the symbology across most of the world’s traditions and religions. Why is there such a consistent system of natural symbols in the world? Is the world inherently symbolic?
This is the observation that led me to investigate the cosmic serpent.
- I found the symbol in shamanism all over the world. Why? That's a good question.
- My hypothesis is that it is connected to the double helix of DNA inside virtually all living beings.
- And DNA itself is a symbolic Saussurian code.
- So, yes, in at least one important way, the living world is inherently symbolic. We are made of living language.
You write of how the ideology of "rational" science, deterministic thought, is and has been quite limiting in its approach to new and alternative scientific theories; it is assumed that "mystery is the enemy." In your book you describe how you had to suspend your judgement, to "defocalize," and in this way gain a deeper insight. Why do you think we are often limited in our rational, linear thought and why are so few willing and able to cross these boundaries?
I don't believe we are. People spend hours each day thinking non-rationally.
- Our emotional brain treats all the information we receive before our neo-cortex does.
- Scientists are forever making discoveries as they daydream, take a bath, go for a run, lay in bed, and so on.
Vision of the Snakes By Pablo Amaringo | Gallery of Usko-Ayar Art
What are the correspondences between the Peruvian shamans’ findings and microbiology?
Both shamans and molecular biologists agree that there is a hidden unity under the surface of life's diversity;
- Both associate this unity with the double helix shape (or two entwined serpents, a twisted ladder, a spiral staircase, wo vines wrapped around each other);
- Both consider that one must deal with this level of reality in order to heal.
- One can fill a book with correspondences between shamanism and molecular biology.
Do you think there is not only an intelligence based in our DNA but a consciousness as well?
I think we should attend to the words we use. "Consciousness" carries different baggage than "intelligence."
- Many would define human consciousness as different from, say, animal consciousness, because humans are conscious of being conscious.
- But how do we know that dolphins don't think about being dolphins?
- I do not know whether there is a "consciousness" inside our cells; for now, the question seems out of reach; we have a hard enough time understanding our own consciousness — though we use it most of the time.
- I propose the concept of "intelligence" to describe what proteins and cells do, simply because it makes the data more comprehensible.
- This concept will require at least a decade or two for biologists to consider and test.
- Then, we might be able to move along and consider the idea of a "cellular consciousness."
Alchemical vision of chromosomal DNA?
The implications of some of your findings in The Cosmic Serpent could be quite large. How do you feel about the book and what it says? Why did you write the book?
I wrote the book because I felt that certain things needed saying.
- Writing a book is like sending out a message in a bottle: sometimes one gets replies.
- Judging from the responses, a surprising number of people have got the message loud and clear.
How can shamanism complement modern science?
Most definitions of "science" revolve around the testing of hypotheses.
- Claude Levi-Strauss showed in his book The Savage Mind that human beings have been carefully observing nature and endlessly testing hypotheses for at least ten thousand years.
- This is how animals and plants were domesticated.
- Civilization rests on millennia of Neolithic science.
- I think the science of shamans can complement modern science by helping make sense of the data it generates.
- Shamanism is like a reverse camera relative to modern science.
Actual photo of chromosomal DNA.
The shamans were very spiritual people. Has any of this affected you? What is spiritual in your life?
I don't use the word "spiritual" to think about my life.
- I spend my time promoting land titling projects and bilingual education for indigenous people, and thinking about how to move knowledge forward and how to open up understanding between people;
- I also spend time with my children, and with children in my community (as a soccer coach);
- And I look after the plants in my garden, without using pesticides and so on.
- But I do this because I think it needs doing, and because it's all I can do, but not because it's "spiritual."
- The message I got from shamans was: do what you can for those around you (including plants and animals), but don't make a big deal of it.
Note on the translation: The author wrestled the text
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Copyright © 1998 by Jeremy Narby
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof,
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
[Serpent cosmique. English]
The cosmic serpent : DNA and the origins of knowledge / by Jeremy Narby.
Includes bibliographical references.
eISBN : 978-1-101-49435-6
1. Indians of South America—Drug use—Peru. 2. Shamanism—Peru. 3. Hallucinogenic drugs—Peru
| View record in the LC Online Catalog
Loïk, and Gaspar
|Many thanks to the following:|
|■ first reader, Rachel Vuillaume Narby
■ research assistant, Marie- Claire Chappuis
■ third base coach, Jon Christensen
■ unconditional support, Willy Randin/Nouvelle Planète
■ epistemology, Suren Erkman
■ anthropology, Jürg Gasché
■ metaphysics, Richard Chappuis
■ biology, Jean-Luc Renck, Véronique Servais
■ botany, Mathias Läubli, Michel Mettraux
■ medicine, Gilbert Guignard
■ professional guidance, Henri Weissenbach
■ argumentation, Jeremy P. Tarcher
■ French language consultant, Fabienne Radi Maitre
■ images, ric@act
■ literary agent, Barbara Moulton
■ the term “DNA-TV,” Kit Miller
■ original readers
Yona Birker Chavanne
■ English manuscript readers
Rob La Frenais
■ my professors
|■ my colleagues,
■ nicotinic receptors, Marc Ballivet
■ dimethyltryptamine information
■ nicotine information
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health
■ child care
The Cantonal and University Library of Fribourg, Switzerland
The Network of Swiss Libraries
Christophe Piller, Fribourg, Switzerland
■ Flashback Books
Michael Horowitz, 20 Sunny-side Avenue, Suite A195, Mill Valley, CA 94941.
■ In Peru:
Abelardo Shingari, and the community of Quirishari
■ Original fieldwork funded by:
National Science Foundation (No. BNS 8420651)
Wenner-Gren Foundation (No. 4622)
Stanford’s Center for Research in International Studies.
■ Specials thanks go to:
Carlos Perez Shuma, who made an anthropologist of me
the indigenous people of the world, who taught me the most important things
I know, who have kept their ancient knowledge despite persecution, genocide
and territorial confiscation, and whose ethical standard is an inspiration
my parents, grandparents, and ancestors for the DNA
the global network of life, with a special thought for the plant-teachers.
p. 49. “The human brain.... Redrawn from Desana sketches.” From G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, “Brain and Mind in Desana Shamanism,”
in Journal of Latin American Lore, vol. 7, no. 1 (1981). Reprinted with permission of The Regents of the University of California.
p. 50. “The human brain.... Redrawn from Desana sketches.” From G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, “Brain and Mind in Desana Shamanism,”
in Journal of Latin American Lore, vol. 7, no. 1 (1981). Reprinted with permission of The Regents of the University of California.
p. 55. “The ancestral anaconda . . . guided by the divine rock crystal.” From G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, “Brain and Mind in Desana Shamanism,”
in Journal of Latin American Lore, vol. 7, no. 1 (1981). Reprinted with permission of The Regents of the University of California.
p. 55. “‘The Serpent Lord Enthroned.’” From J. Campbell (1964), p. 11. New York, Viking, all rights reserved.
p. 56. “‘Zeus against Typhon.’” From J. Campbell (1964), p. 239. New York, Viking, all rights reserved.
p. 58. (No title.) From Luna and Amaringo (1991), “Vision 33: Campana Ayahuasca,” p. 113. Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
p. 58. “‘. . . the spread-out form of DNA . . .’” From Luna and Amaringo (1991), “Vision 46: Sepultura Tonduri,” p. 139.
Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
p. 58. “‘. . . chromosomes at a specific phase. . . .’” From Luna and Amaringo (1991), “Vision 40: Ayacatuca,” p. 127.
Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
p. 58. “‘. . . triple helixes of collagen . . .’” From Luna and Amaringo (1991), “Vision 21: The Sublimity of the Sumiruna,” p. 89.
Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
p. 58. “‘. . . DNA from afar, looking like a telephone cord . . .’” From Luna and Amaringo (1991), “Vision 32: Pregnant by an Anaconda,” p. 111.
Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
p. 61. Cover of Crick (1981) is reprinted with the kind permission of Little, Brown & Co.
p. 64. “‘A painting on hardboard of the Snake of the Marinbata people of Arnhem Land.’” From F. Huxley (1974), p. 127.
Photo by Axel Poignant. All rights reserved.
p. 64. “‘A rock painting of the Walbiri tribe of Aborigines representing the Rainbow Snake.’ ” From F. Huxley (1974), p. 126.
Photo by David Attenborough. All rights reserved.
p. 64. “Early prophase . . .” From Watson et al. (1987). Copyright © 1987 by James D. Watson.
Published by the Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company.
p. 64. “Anaphase II . . .” From Watson et al. (1987). Copyright © 1987 by James D. Watson.
Published by the Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company.
p. 65. “‘The cosmic serpent, provider of attributes.’” From R. T. R. Clark (1959), p. 52.
Reprinted with permission from Thames and Hudson Ltd.
p. 65. “‘Sito, the primordial serpent.’ ” From R. T. R. Clark (1959), p. 192. Copyright British Museum.
p. 65. “‘Ronín, the two-headed serpent.’” From A. Gebhart-Sayer (1987), p. 42. Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 65. “‘The serpent of the earth becomes celestial ...’” From C. Jacq (1993), p. 99. Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 66. “‘Here is the dragon that devours its tail.’” From M. Maier (1965, orig. 1618), p. 139. All rights reserved.
p. 66. “‘Ouroboros: bronze disk, Benin art.’” From Chevalier and Gheerbrant (1982), p. 716. Paris, Robert Laffont, all rights reserved.
p. 67. “‘Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi resting on Sesha . . .’” From F. Huxley (1974), pp. 188-89.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Aldus Books and the Ferguson Publishing Company.
p. 68. “‘Cosmovision.’” From A. Gebhart-Sayer (1987), p. 26. Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 68. “‘Aspects of Ronín.’” From A. Gebhart-Sayer (1987), p. 34. Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 69. (No title.) From J. Watson (1968), p. 165. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, all rights reserved.
p. 71. “‘The DNA double helix represented as a pair of snakes...’” From Wills (1991), p. 37. Copyright © 1991 by Christopher Wills.
Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
p. 72. “Liana (Bauhinia caulotretus) ‘that goes from earth up to heaven.’” From T. Koch-Grünberg (1917), vol. 2, drawing IV. All rights reserved.
p. 73. “The ‘sky-ladder’ drawing . . .” From A. Gebhart-Sayer (1987). Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 74. “‘Banisteriopsis caapi, a liana that tends to grow in charming double helices ...’” From Schultes and Raffauf (1992), p. 26.
Reprinted with permission from Synergetic Press, Oracle, Arizona.
p. 78. “‘The cosmic serpent, provider of attributes.’” From R. T. R. Clark (1959), p. 52. Reprinted with permission from Thames and Hudson Ltd.
p. 80. “A magnified section of a leaf . . .” From a photo by Alfred Pasieka. Reprinted with the photographer’s permission.
p. 84. “‘Cosmovision.’” From A. Gebhart-Sayer (1987), p. 26. Reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
p. 87. “Detail from Pablo Amaringo’s painting ‘Pregnant by an Anaconda.’” From Luna and Amaringo (1991), p. 111.
Reprinted with the authors’ kind permission.
This over one hour long documentary features discussions by Jeremy Narby, a Canadian anthropologist living in Switzerland, who has made an extensive study of the indigenous use of ayahuasca in South American cultures. He has written one of the most interesting books about ayahuasca – The Cosmic Serpent – DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. In it, he compares the descriptions of the ayahuasqueros’s visions of intertwining serpents with molecular geneticists description of the DNA molecule, which has the structure of a double helix. Michael Harner, President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and author of The Way of the Shaman, wrote of The Cosmic Serpent that “it is a spellbinding, scholarly tour de force that may presage a major paradigm in the Western view of reality.”
Narby has also taken a small group of Western-trained scientists (geneticists, molecular biologists) to visit with ayahuasca shamans and found that they could indeed, with the help of the visionary vine, look directly into the deep subjective structure of the material world that they had previously studied intensively through their objective instruments and measures.
At the Earth Summit, everybody was talking about the ecological knowledge of indigenous people, but certainly no one was talking about the hallucinatory origin of some of it, as claimed by the indigenous people themselves.
- Admittedly, most anthropologists and ethnobotanists did not know about it, but even those who did said nothing, presumably because there is no way to do so and be taken seriously.
- Colleagues might ask,
- “You mean Indians claim they get molecularly verifiable information from their hallucinations?
You don't take them literally, do you?”
 For examples of texts that illustrate the value of the botanical knowledge of Amazonian peoples with multiple references to curare, Pilocarpus jaborandi, and tikiuba, see
 See Luna (1986, p. 57).
What could one answer?
It is true that not all of the world's indigenous people use hallucinogenic plants.
- Even in the Amazon, there are forms of shamanism based on techniques other than the ingestion of hallucinogens;
- But in Western Amazonia, which includes the Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Colombian part of the basin, it is hard to find a culture that does not use an entire panoply of psychoactive plants.
- According to one inventory, there are seventy-two ayahuasca-using cultures in Western Amazonia.
The dilemma posed by the hallucinatory
knowledge of indigenous people.
■ On the one hand, its results are
empirically confirmed and used
by the pharmaceutical industry;
■ On the other hand, its origin cannot
be discussed scientifically because
it contradicts the axioms
of Western knowledge.
Richard Evans Schultes, the foremost ethnobotanist of the twentieth century, writes about the healers of a region in Colombia that he considers to be one of the centers of Western Amazonian shamanism:
- “The medicine men of the Kamsá and Inga tribes of the Valley of Sibundoy, have an unusually extensive knowledge of medicinal and toxic plants. … One of the most renowned is Salvador Chindoy, who insists that his knowledge of the medicinal value of plants has been taught to him by the plants themselves through the hallucinations he has experienced in his long lifetime as a medicine man.” 
Schultes does not say anything further about the hallucinatory origin of the botanical expertise of Amazonian people, because there is nothing one can say without contradicting two fundamental principles of Western knowledge.
 Schultes and Raffauf (1992, p. 58).
 Slade and Bentall (1988) write:
Hare (1973) writes:
Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines hallucination as follows:
 According to Renck (1989), who reviewed the scientific literature on the matter, and who bases himself on Tavolga's work, there are six levels of communication:
It was in Rio that I realized the extent of the dilemma posed by the hallucinatory knowledge of indigenous people.
- On the one hand, its results are empirically confirmed and used by the pharmaceutical industry;
- On the other hand, its origin cannot be discussed scientifically because it contradicts the axioms of Western knowledge.
When I understood that the enigma of plant communication was a blind spot for science, I felt the call to conduct an in-depth investigation of the subject.
- Furthermore, I had been carrying the mystery of plant communication around since my stay with the Ashaninca, and I knew that explorations of contradictions in science often yield fruitful results.
- Finally, it seemed to me that the establishment of a serious dialogue with indigenous people on ecology and botany required that this question be addressed.
Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning
co-discoverer of the structure of DNA,
was suggesting that the molecule of life
was of extraterrestrial origin
After the meeting, toward the end of the afternoon, I went over to my colleagues house.
- He had generously allowed me to look through his books in his absence.
I entered his office, a big room with an entire wall occupied by bookshelves, turned on the light, and started browsing.
- The biology section contained, among others, The double helix by James Watson, the co-discoverer with Francis Crick of the structure of DNA.
- I flipped through this book, looking at the pictures with interest, and put it aside.
A little further along on the same shelf, I came upon a book by Francis Crick entitled Life itself: Its origin and nature.
- I pulled it out and looked at its cover — and could not believe my eyes.
- It showed an image of the earth, seen from space, with a rather indistinct object coming from the cosmos and landing on it.
Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, was suggesting that the molecule of life was of extraterrestrial origin — in the same way that the "animist" peoples claimed that the vital principle was a serpent from the cosmos.
I had never heard of Crick's hypothesis, called "directed panspermia," but I knew that I had just found a new correspondence between science and the complex formed by shamanism and mythology.
I sat down in the armchair and plunged into Life itself: Its origin and nature.
Crick concludes that the organized
complexity found at the cellular level
"cannot have arisen by pure chance."
Crick, writing In the early 1980s, criticizes the usual scientific theory on the origin of life, according to which a cell first appeared in the primitive soup through the random collisions of disorganized molecules. For Crick, this theory presents a major drawback:
- It is based on ideas conceived in the nineteenth century, long before molecular biology revealed that the basic mechanisms of life are identical for all species and are extremely complex — and when one calculates the probability of chance producing such complexity, one ends up with inconceivably small numbers.
The DNA molecule, which excels at stocking and duplicating information, is incapable of building itself on its own.
- Proteins do this, but they are incapable of reproducing themselves without the information contained in the DNA.
- Life, therefore, is a seemingly inescapable synthesis of these two molecular systems.
- Moving beyond the famous question of the chicken and the egg, Crick calculates the probability of the chance emergence of one single protein (which could then go on to build the first DNA molecule).
- In all living species, proteins are made up of exactly the same 20 amino acids, which are small molecules.
- The average protein is a long chain made up of approximately 200 amino acids, chosen from those 20, and strung together in the right order.
- According to the laws of combinatorials, there is 1 chance in 20 multiplied by itself 200 times for a single specific protein to emerge fortuitously.
- This figure, which can be written 20200, and which is roughly equivalent to 10260, is enormously greater than the number of atoms in the observable universe (estimated at 1050 ).
These numbers are inconceivable for a human mind.
- It is not possible to imagine all the atoms of the observable universe and even less a figure that is billions of billions of billions of billions of billions (etc.) times greater.
- However, since the beginning of life on earth, the number of amino acid chains that could have been synthesized by chance can only represent a minute fraction of all the possibilities.
According to Crick:
- “The great majority of sequences can never have been synthesized at all, at any time. These calculations take account only of the amino acid sequence. They do not allow for the fact that many sequences would probably not fold up satisfactorily into a stable, compact shape. What fraction of all possible sequences would do this is not known, though it is surmised to be fairly small.”
Crick concludes that the organized complexity found at the cellular level “cannot have arisen by pure chance.”
The earth has existed for approximately 4.5 billion years.
- In the beginning it was merely a radioactive aggregate with a surface temperature reaching the melting point of metal.
- Not really a hospitable place for life. Yet there are fossils of single-celled beings that are approximately 3.5 billion years old.
- The existence of a single cell necessarily implies the presence of DNA, with its 4-letter "alphabet" (A, G, C, T), and of proteins, with their 20-letter "alphabet" (the 20 amino acids), as well as a "translation mechanism" between the two — given that the instructions for the construction of proteins are coded in the language of DNA.
 See Crick (1981, pp. 51, 52-53, 70).
- “It is quite remarkable that such a mechanism exists at all and even more remarkable that every living cell, whether animal, plant or microbial, contains a version of it.” 
Crick compares a protein to a paragraph made up of 200 letters lined up in the correct order.
Life as described by Crick was based on a miniature
language that had not changed a letter in four billion years,
while multiplying itself in an extreme diversity of species.
- If the chances are infinitesimal for one paragraph to emerge in a billion years from a terrestrial soup, the probability of the fortuitous appearance, during the same period, of two alphabets and one translation mechanism is even smaller.
When i looked up from Crick's book, it was dark outside.
- I was feeling both astonished and elated. Like a myopic detective bent over a magnifying glass while following a trail, I had fallen into a bottomless hole.
- For months I had been trying to untangle the enigma of the hallucinatory knowledge of Western Amazonia's indigenous people, stubbornly searching for the hidden passage in the apparent dead end.
- I had only detected the DNA trail two weeks previously in Harner's book.
- Since then I had mainly developed the hypothesis along intuitive lines.
- My goal was certainly not to build a new theory on the origin of life; but there I was — a poor anthropologist knowing barely how to swim, floating in a cosmic ocean filled with microscopic and bilingual serpents.
- I could see now that there might be links between science and shamanic, spiritual and mythological traditions, that seemed to have gone unnoticed, doubtless because of the fragmentation of Western knowledge.
With his book, Francis Crick provided a good example of this fragmentation.
- His mathematics were impeccable, and his reasoning crystalline; Crick was surely among twentieth-century rationality's finest.
- But he had not noticed that he was not the first to propose the idea of a snake-shaped vital principle of cosmic origin.
- All the peoples in the world who talk of a cosmic serpent have been saving as much for millennia.
- He had not seen it because the rational gaze is forever focalized and can examine only one thing at a time.
- It separates things to understand them, including the truly complementary.
- It is the gaze of the specialist, who sees the fine grain of a necessarily restricted field of vision.
- When Crick set about considering cosmogony from the serious perspective of molecular biology, he had long since put out of his analytical mind the myths of archaic peoples.
From my new point of view, Crick's scenario of "directed panspermia," in which a spaceship transports DNA in the form of frozen bacteria across the immensities of the cosmos, seemed less likely than the idea of an omniscient and terrifying cosmic serpent of unimaginable power.
- After all, life as described by Crick was based on a miniature language that had not changed a letter in four billion years, while multiplying itself in an extreme diversity of species.
- The petals of a rose, Francis Cricks brain, and the coat of a virus are all built out of proteins made up of exactly the same 20 amino acids.
- A phenomenon capable of such creativity was surely not going to travel in a spaceship resembling those propelled containers imagined by human beings in the twentieth century.
"A painting on hardboard of the Snake of
the Marinbata people of Arnhem Land."
From Huxley (1974, p. 127).
This meant that the gaze of the Western specialist was too narrow to see the two pieces that fit together to resolve the puzzle.
- The distance between molecular biology and shamanism/mythology was an optical illusion produced by the rational gaze that separates things ahead of time, and as objectivism fails to objectify its objectifying relationship, it also finds it difficult to consider its presuppositions.
The puzzle to solve was: Who are we and where do we come from?
"Cosmovision." From Gebhart-Sayer (1987, p. 26).
I went on to look for the connection between the cosmic serpent — the master of transformation of serpentine form that lives in water and can be both extremely long and small, single and double — and DNA.
Your personal DNA is
long enough to wrap
around the earth
5 million times.
I found that DNA corresponds exactly to this description.
- 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.
- 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 cannot reveal it, because DNA is approximately 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light.
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.
"Aspects of Ronín." From Gebhart-Sayer (1987, p. 34).
The average human being is made up of 100 thousand billion cells, according to some estimates.
- This means that there are approximately 125 billion miles of DNA in a human body — corresponding to 70 round-trips between Saturn and the Sun.
- You could travel your entire life in a Boeing 747 flying at top speed and you would not even cover one hundredth of this distance.
- Your personal DNA is long enough to wrap around the earth 5 million times.
 Each human cell contains approximately 6 billion base pairs (= 6 × 109, meaning 6 followed by 9 zeros).
De Duve (1984) writes:
 Wills (1989) writes that the nucleus of a cell “is about two millionths of the volume of a pinhead” (p. 22).
However, there is no consensus on this figure.
To calculate the total length of the DNA in a human body, I chose the figure that seems to be the most widely used, and that is halfway between the extremes.
Finally, a Boeing 747 traveling for 75 years at 1,000 km/h would travel 657 million kilometers,
 Most cells contain between 70 and 80 percent water.
All the cells in the world contain DNA — be they animal, vegetal, or bacterial — and they are all filled with salt water, in which the concentration of salt is similar to that of the worldwide ocean.
DNA is the informational
molecule of life
- We cry and sweat what is essentially seawater.
- DNA bathes in water, which in turn plays a crucial role in establishing the double helix's shape.
- As DNA's four bases (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) are insoluble in water, they tuck themselves into the center of the molecule where they associate in pairs to form the rungs of the ladder; then they twist up into a spiraled stack to avoid contact with the surrounding water molecules.
- DNA's twisted ladder shape is a direct consequence of the cell's watery environment.
- DNA goes together with water, just like mythical serpents do.
From Watson (1968, p. 165).
The DNA molecule is a single long chain made up of two interwoven ribbons that are connected by the four bases.
- These bases can only match up in specific pairs — A with T, G with C.
- Any other pairing of the bases is impossible, because of the arrangement of their individual atoms: A can bond only with T, G only with C.
This means that one of the two ribbons is the back-to-front duplicate of the other and that the genetic text is double:
- It contains a main text on one of the ribbons, which is read in a precise direction by the transcription enzymes.
- And a backup text, which is inverted and most often not read.
The second ribbon plays two essential roles.
- It allows the repair enzymes to reconstruct the main text in case of damage.
- And, above all, it provides the mechanism for the duplication of the genetic message.
- It suffices to open the double helix as one might unzip a zipper, in order to obtain two separate and complementary ribbons that can then be rebuilt into double ribbons by the duplication enzymes.
- As the latter can place only an A opposite a T and vice versa, and a G opposite a C, and vice versa, this leads to the formation of two twin double helixes, which are identical in every respect to the original.
- Twins are therefore central to life, just as ancient myths indicate, and they are associated with a serpentine form.
Without this copying mechanism,
a cell would never be able
to duplicate itself,
and life would not exist.
The biological transition between
bacteria and nucleated cells …
is so sudden it cannot effectively
be explained by gradual changes
Without this copying mechanism, a cell would never be able to duplicate itself, and life would not exist.
DNA is the informational molecule of life, and its very essence consists in being both single and double, like the mythical serpents.
DNA and its duplication mechanisms are the same for all living creatures. The only thing that changes from one species to another is the order of the letters.
- This constancy goes back to the very origins of life on earth.
- According to biologist Robert Pollack:
- “The planet's surface has changed many times over, but DNA and the cellular machinery for its replication have remained constant. Schrödinger's 'aperiodic crystal' understated DNA's stability: no stone, no mountain, no ocean, not even the sky above us, have been stable and constant for this long; nothing inanimate, no matter how complicated, has survived unchanged for a fraction of the time that DNA and its machinery of replication have coexisted.” 
 Pollack (1994, pp. 29-30).
At the beginning of its existence, some 4.5 billion years ago, planet earth was an inhospitable place for life.
- As a molten lava fireball, its surface was radioactive.
- Its water was so hot it existed only in the form of incondensable vapor.
- And its atmosphere, devoid of any breathable oxygen, contained poisonous gases such as cyanide and formaldehyde.
Approximately 3.9 billion years ago, the earth's surface cooled sufficiently to form a thin crust on top of the molten magma.
- Strangely, life, and thus DNA, appeared relatively quickly thereafter.
- Scientists have found traces of biological activity in sedimentary rocks that are 3.85 billion years old, and fossil hunters have found actual bacterial fossils that are 3.5 billion years old.
During the first 2 billion years of life on earth, the planet was inhabited only by anaerobic bacteria, for which oxygen is a poison.
- These bacteria lived in water, and some of them learned to use the hydrogen contained in the H2O molecule while expelling the oxygen.
- This opened up new and more efficient metabolic pathways.
- The gradual enrichment of the atmosphere with oxygen allowed the appearance of a new kind of cell, capable of using oxygen and equipped with a nucleus for packing together its DNA.
- These nucleated cells are at least thirty times more voluminous than bacterial cells.
- According to biologists Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan:
- “The biological transition between bacteria and nucleated cells … is so sudden it cannot effectively be explained by gradual changes over time.”
From that moment onward, life as we know it took shape. Nucleated cells joined together to form the first multicellular beings, such as algae.
- The latter also produce oxygen by photosynthesis.
- Atmospheric oxygen increased to about 21 percent and then stabilized at this level approximately 500 million years ago — thankfully, because if oxygen were a few percent higher, living beings would combust spontaneously.
- According to Margulis and Sagan, this state of affairs “gives the impression of a conscious decision to maintain balance between danger and opportunity, between risk and benefit.” 
 Both quotes are from Margulis and Sagan (1986, pp. 115-116, 111).
 Lewontin (1992) writes:
For estimates regarding the current number of species, see:
Around 550 million years ago, life exploded into a grand variety of multicellular species, algae and more complex plants and animals, living not only in water, but on land and in the air.
- Of all the species living at that time, not one has survived to this day.
- According to certain estimates, almost all of the species that have ever lived on earth have already disappeared, and there are between 3 million and 50 million species living currently.
DNA is a master of transformation, just like mythical serpents.
- The cell-based life DNA informs made the air we breathe, the landscape we see, and the mind-boggling diversity of living beings of which we are a part.
- In 4 billion years, it has multiplied itself into an incalculable number of species, while remaining exactly the same.
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.
- Molecular biologist Christopher Wills writes: “The two chains of DNA resemble two snakes coiled around each other in some elaborate courtship ritual.” 
 Wills (1991, p. 36).
To sum up, DNA is
- a snake-shaped master of transformation
- that lives in water and
- is both extremely long and small, single and double.
Just like the cosmic serpent.
DNA and the cell-based life it codes for are
an extremely sophisticated technology that
far surpasses our present-day understanding.
DNA was initially developed elsewhere
than on earth — which it radically transformed
on its arrival some four billion years ago.
One sunny afternoon that spring I was sitting in the garden with my children. Birds were singing in the trees, and my mind began to wander.
- There I was, a product of twentieth-century rationality, my faith requiring numbers and molecules rather than myths.
- Yet I was now confronted with mythological numbers relative to a molecule, in which I had to believe.
- Inside my body sitting there in the garden sun were 125 billion miles of DNA.
- I was wired to the hilt with DNA threads and until recently had known nothing about it.
- Was this astronomical number really just a “useless but amusing fact,”  as some scientists would have it?
- Or did it indicate that the dimensions, at least, of our DNA are cosmic?
Some biologists describe DNA as an “ancient high biotechnology,” containing “over a hundred trillion times as much information by volume as our most sophisticated information storage devices.” Could one still speak of a technology in these circumstances?
- Yes, because there is no other word to qualify this duplicate, information-storing molecule.
- DNA is only ten atoms wide and as such constitutes a sort of ultimate technology:
- It is organic and so miniaturized that it approaches the limits of material existence.
 Jones (1993) writes:
 Margulis and Sagan (1986) write:
 Luna and Amaringo (1991, pp. 33-34).
Shamans, meanwhile, claim that the vital principle that animates all living creatures comes from the cosmos and is minded. As ayahuasquero 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 strong.” 
During the past weeks, I had come to consider that the perspective of biologists could be reconciled with that of ayahuasqueros and that both could be true at the same time. According to the stereoscopic image I could see by gazing at both perspectives simultaneously,
- 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.
It was as if the instructions were to
remain hidden from their beneficiaries,
as if we were wired in such a way
that we could not see the wires.
I did not know what to make of these thoughts.
- Staring blankly at the lawn in front of me, I started following a shiny, black ant making its way across the thick blades of grass with the determination of a tank.
- It was heading toward the colony of aphids in the tree at the bottom of the garden.
- This was an ant belonging to a species that herds aphids and "milks" them for their sweet secretions.
I began thinking that this ant had a visual system quite different from my own that apparently functioned every bit as well.
- Despite our differences in size and shape, our genetic information was written in the same language — which we were both incapable of seeing, given that DNA is smaller than visible light, even to the eyes of an ant.
I found it interesting that the language containing the instructions for the creation of different visual systems should be itself invisible. It was as if the instructions were to remain hidden from their beneficiaries, as if we were wired in such a way that we could not see the wires. …
I tried reconsidering the question from a "shamanic" point of view. It was as if these beings inside us wanted to hide. … But that's what the Ashaninca say! They call the invisible beings who created life the "maninkari," literally "those who are hidden"!
I ended up with a hypothesis
suggesting that a human mind
can communicate in defocalized
consciousness with the global
network of DNA-based life.
I began my investigation with the enigma of "plant communication."
- I went on to accept the idea that hallucinations could be a source of verifiable information.
- And I ended up with a hypothesis suggesting that a human mind can communicate in defocalized consciousness with the global network of DNA-based life.
- All this contradicts principles of Western knowledge.
Nevertheless, my hypothesis is testable.
- A test would consist of seeing whether institutionally respected biologists could find biomolecular information in the hallucinatory world of ayahuasqueros.
- However, this hypothesis is currently not receivable by institutional biology, because it impinges on the discipline's presuppositions.
Biology has a blind spot of historical origin.
It wasn't until the 1950s and the discovery of
the role of DNA that the theory of natural selection
became generally accepted among scientists.
My hypothesis suggests that what scientists call DNA corresponds to the animate essences that shamans say communicate with them and animate all life forms.
- Modern biology, however, is founded on the notion that nature is not animated by an intelligence and therefore cannot communicate.
This presupposition comes from the materialist tradition established by the naturalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
- In those days, it took courage to question the explanations about life afforded by a literal reading of the Bible.
- By adopting a scientific method based on direct observation and the classification of species, Linnaeus, Lamarck, Darwin, and Wallace audaciously concluded that the different species had evolved over time — and had not been created in fixed form six thousand years previously in the Garden of Eden.
Wallace and Darwin simultaneously proposed a material mechanism to explain the evolution of species.
- According to their theory of natural selection, organisms presented slight variations from one generation to the next, which were either retained or eliminated in the struggle for survival.
- This idea rested on a circular argument: Those who survive are the most able to survive.
- But it seemed to explain both the variation of species and the astonishing perfection of the natural world, as it retained only the improvements.
- Above all, it took God out of the picture and enabled biologists to study nature without having to worry about a divine plan within.
For almost a century, the theory of natural selection was contested.
- Vitalists, like Bergson, rejected its stubborn materialism, pointing out that it lacked a mechanism to explain the origin of the variations.
- It wasn't until the 1950s and the discovery of the role of DNA that the theory of natural selection became generally accepted among scientists.
- The DNA molecule seemed to demonstrate the materiality of heredity and to provide the missing mechanism.
- As DNA is self-duplicating and transmits its information to proteins, biologists concluded that information could not flow back from proteins to DNA; therefore, genetic variation could only come from errors in the duplication process.
- Francis Crick termed this the “central dogma” of the young discipline called molecular biology.
- “Chance is the only true source of novelty,” he wrote.
The materialist approach in molecular biology …
rested on the unprovable presupposition that
chance is the only source of novelty in nature,
and that nature is devoid of any goal, intention,
The discovery of DNA's role and the formulation in molecular terms of the theory of natural selection gave a new impetus to materialist philosophy.
- It became possible to contend on a scientific basis that life was a purely material phenomenon.
- Francis Crick wrote: “The ultimate aim of the modern movement in biology is to explain all biology in terms of physics and chemistry” (original italics).
- François Jacob, another Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, wrote:
- “The processes which occur in living beings at the microscopic level of molecules are in no way different from those analyzed by physics and chemistry in inert systems.” 
The materialist approach in molecular biology went from strength to strength — but it rested on the unprovable presupposition that chance is the only source of novelty in nature, and that nature is devoid of any goal, intention, or consciousness.
- Jacques Monod, also a Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, expressed this idea clearly in his famous essay Chance and necessity:
- “The cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective. In other words, the systematic denial that 'true' knowledge can be reached by interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes — that is to say, of 'purpose'. … This pure postulate is impossible to demonstrate, for it is obviously impossible to imagine an experiment proving the nonexistence anywhere in nature of a purpose, or a pursued end. But the postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science, and has guided the whole of its prodigious development for three centuries. It is impossible to escape it, even provisionally or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself”  (original italics).
… such coding systems were considered
up until the discovery of the genetic code
as “exclusively human phenomena”
— that is, phenomena that require
the presence of an intelligence to exist.
Biologists thought they had found the truth, and they did not hesitate to call it "dogma."
- Strangely, their newfound conviction was hardly troubled by the discovery in the 1960s of a genetic code that is the same for all living beings and that bears striking similarities to human coding systems, or languages.
- To transmit information, the genetic code uses elements (A, G, C, and T) that are meaningless individually, but that form units of significance when combined, in the same way that letters make up words.
- The genetic code contains 64 three-letter "words," all of which have meaning, including two punctuation marks.
As linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out, such coding systems were considered up until the discovery of the genetic code as “exclusively human phenomena”  — that is, phenomena that require the presence of an intelligence to exist.
One of the facts that troubled me most was
the astronomical length of the DNA contained
in a human body: 125 billion miles.
When I started reading the literature of molecular biology, I was stunned by certain descriptions.
- Admittedly, I was on the lookout for anything unusual, as my investigation had led me to consider that DNA and its cellular machinery truly were an extremely sophisticated technology of cosmic origin.
- But as I pored over thousands of pages of biological texts, I discovered a world of science fiction that seemed to confirm my hypothesis.
- Proteins and enzymes were described as “miniature robots”
- Ribosomes were “molecular computers”
- Cells were “factories”
- DNA itself was a “text,” a “program,” a “language,” or “data”
- One only had to do a literal reading of contemporary biology to reach shattering conclusions;
- Yet most authors display a total lack of astonishment and seem to consider that life is merely “a normal physiochemical phenomenon.” 
One of the facts that troubled me most was the astronomical length of the DNA contained in a human body: 125 billion miles.
- There, I thought, is the Ashaninca's sky-rope: It is inside us and is certainly long enough to connect earth and heaven.
- What did biologists make of this cosmic number? Most of them did not even mention it, and those who did talked of a “useless but amusing fact.”
I was also troubled by the certitude exhibited by most biologists in the face of the profoundly mysterious reality they were describing.
- After all, the spectacular accomplishments of molecular biology during the second half of the twentieth century had led to more questions than answers.
- This is an old problem: Knowledge calls for more knowledge, or, as Jean Piaget wrote,
- “The most developed science remains a continual becoming.” 
Yet few biological texts discuss the unknown.
The enzymes which both repair the double
helix in case of damage and correct any
errors in the DNA replication process make
only one mistake every ten billion letters.
Take proteins, for instance.
- These long chains of amino acids, strung together in the order specified by DNA, accomplish almost all the essential tasks in cells.
- They catch molecules and build them into cellular structures or take them apart to extract their energy.
- They carry atoms to precise places inside or outside the cell.
- They act as pumps or motors.
- They form receptors that trap highly specific molecules or antennae that conduct electrical charges.
- Like versatile marionettes, or jacks-of-all-trades, they twist, fold, and stretch into the shape their task requires.
- What is known, precisely, about these “self-assembling machines”?
- According to Alwyn Scott, a mathematician with an interest in molecular biology: “Biologists' understanding of how proteins function is a lot like your and my understanding of how a car works. We know you put in gas, and the gas is burned to make things turn, but the details are all pretty vague.” 
Enzymes are large proteins that accelerate cellular activities.
- They act with disarming speed and selectivity. One enzyme in human blood, carbonic anhydrase, can assemble single-handedly over a half million molecules of carbonic acid per second.
- The enzymes which both repair the double helix in case of damage and correct any errors in the DNA replication process make only one mistake every ten billion letters.
- Enzymes read the DNA text, transcribe it into RNA, edit out the non-coding passages, splice together the final message, construct the machines that read the instructions and build … other enzymes.
- What is known, precisely, about these “molecular automata”? According to biologists Chris Calladine and Horace Drew:
- “These enzymes are extremely efficient in doing their job, yet no one knows exactly how they work.” 
How could nature not be conscious if our
own consciousness is produced by nature?
Shamans say the correct way to talk about spirits is in metaphors.
- Biologists confirm this notion by using a precise array of anthropocentric and technological metaphors to describe DNA, proteins, and enzymes.
- DNA is a text, or a program, or data,
- Containing information,
- Which is read and transcribed into messenger-RNAs.
- The latter feed into ribosomes, which are molecular computers that translate the instructions according to the genetic code.
- They build the rest of the cells machinery, namely the proteins and enzymes, which are miniaturized robots that construct and maintain the cell.
Over the course of my readings, I constantly wondered how nature could be devoid of intention if it truly corresponded to the descriptions biologists made of it.
One only had to consider the “dance of the chromosomes” to see DNA move in a deliberate way.
- During cell division, chromosomes double themselves and assemble by pairs.
- The two sets of chromosomes then line up along the middle of the cell and migrate toward their respective pole, each member of each pair always going in the direction opposite to its companions.
- How could this “amazing, stately pavane”  occur without some form of intention?
In biology, this question is simply not asked.
- DNA is “just a chemical,”  deoxyribonucleic acid, to be precise.
- Biologists describe it as both a molecule and a language, making it the informational substance of life,
- But they do not consider it to be conscious, or alive, because chemicals are inert by definition.
How, I wondered, could biology presuppose that DNA is not conscious, if it does not even understand the human brain, which is the seat of our own consciousness and which is built according to the instructions in our DNA?
- How could nature not be conscious if our own consciousness is produced by nature? 
The rational approach tends to
minimize what it does not understand.
As I patrolled the texts of biology, I discovered that the natural world was teeming with examples of behaviors that seem to require forethought.
- Some crows manufacture tools with standardized hooks and toothed probes to help in their search for insects hidden in holes.
- Some chimpanzees, when infected with intestinal parasites, eat bitter, foul-tasting plants, which they otherwise avoid and which contain biologically active compounds that kill intestinal parasites.
- Some species of ants, with brains the size of a grain of sugar, raise herds of aphids which they milk for their sweet secretions and which they keep in barns.
- Other ants have been cultivating mushrooms as their exclusive food for fifty million years.
- It is difficult to understand how these insects could do this without a form of consciousness.
- Yet scientific observers deny them this faculty, like Jacques Monod, who considers the behavior of bees to be “automatic”:
- “We know the hive is 'artificial' in so far as it represents the product of the activity of the bees. But we have good reasons for thinking that this activity is strictly automatic — immediate, but not consciously planned.” 
Indeed, the “postulate of objectivity” prevents its practitioners from recognizing any intentionality in nature or, rather, it nullifies their claim to science if they do so.
During this investigation, I became familiar with certain limits of the rational gaze:
- It tends to fragment reality and to exclude complementarity and the association of contraries from its field of vision.
- I also discovered one of its more pernicious effects: The rational approach tends to minimize what it does not understand.
Anthropology is an ideal training ground for learning this.
- The first anthropologists went out beyond the limits of the rational world and saw primitives and inferior societies.
- When they met shamans, they thought they were mentally ill.
The rational approach starts from the idea that everything is explainable and that mystery is in some sense the enemy.
- This means that it prefers pejorative, and even wrong, answers to admitting its own lack of understanding.
It would have been just as easy
to call it mystery DNA, for instance.
The molecular biology that considers that 97 percent of the DNA in our body is "junk" reveals not only its degree of ignorance, but the extent to which it is prepared to belittle the unknown.
- Some recent hypotheses suggest that “junk DNA” might have certain functions after all.
- But this does not hide the pejorative reflex: We don't understand, so we shoot first, then ask questions. This is cowboy science, and it is not as objective as it claims.
- Neutrality, or simple honesty, would have consisted in saying "for the moment, we do not know."
- It would have been just as easy to call it mystery DNA, for instance.
The problem is not having presuppositions, but failing to make them explicit.
- If biology said about the intentionality that nature seems to manifest at all levels, "we see it sometimes, but cannot discuss it without ceasing to do science according to our own criteria," things would at least be clear.
- But biology tends to project its presuppositions onto the reality it observes, claiming that nature itself is devoid of intention.
This is perhaps one of the most important things I learned during this investigation:
- We see what we believe, and not just the contrary; and to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe.
At first I thought I was the only one to realize that biology had limits similar to those of scientific anthropology and that it, too, was a “self-flattering imposture,” which treats the living as if it were inert.
- Then I discovered that there were all sorts of people within the scientific community who were already discussing biology's fundamental contradictions.
During the 1980s, it became possible to determine the exact sequence of amino acids in given proteins.
- This revealed a new level of complexity in living beings.
- A single nicotinic receptor, forming a highly specific lock coupled to an equally selective channel, is made of five juxtaposed protein chains that contain a total of 2,500 amino acids lined up in the right order.
- Despite the improbability of the chance emergence of such a structure, even nematodes, which are among the most simple multicellular invertebrates, have nicotinic receptors.
In a burst of creativity like nothing before or since,
nature appears to have sketched out the blueprints
for virtually the whole of the animal kingdom. …
Confronted by this kind of complexity, some researchers no longer content themselves with the usual explanation.
- Robert Wesson writes in his book Beyond natural selection: “No simple theory can cope with the enormous complexity revealed by modern genetics.” 
Other researchers have pointed out the improbability of the mechanism that is supposed to be the source of variation — namely, the accumulation of errors in the genetic text.
- It seems obvious that “a message would quickly lose all meaning if its contents changed continuously in an anarchic fashion.” 
- How, then, could such a process lead to the prodigies of the natural world, of which we are a part?
Another fundamental problem contradicts the theory of chance-driven natural selection.
- According to the theory, species should evolve slowly and gradually, since evolution is caused by the accumulation and selection of random errors in the genetic text.
- However, the fossil record reveals a completely different scenario. J. Madeleine Nash writes in her review of recent research in paleontology:
- “Until about 600 million years ago, there were no organisms more complex than bacteria, multicelled algae and
single-celledplankton. … Then, 543 million years ago, in the early Cambrian, within the span of no more than 10 million years, creatures with teeth and tentacles and claws and jaws materialized with the suddenness of apparitions. In a burst of creativity like nothing before or since, nature appears to have sketched out the blueprints for virtually the whole of the animal kingdom. …
- “Since 1987, discoveries of major fossil beds in Greenland, in China, in Siberia, and now in Namibia have shown that the period of biological innovation occurred at virtually the same instant in geological time all around the world. …
Now, … virtuallyeveryone agrees that the Cambrian started almost exactly 543 million years ago and, even more startling, that all but one of the phyla in the fossil record appeared within the first 5 to 10 million years.” 
It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a
satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject
— evolution — with so little rigorous examination
of how well its basic theses work …
Throughout the fossil record, species seem to appear suddenly,
fully formed and equipped with all sorts of specialized organs,
then remain stable for millions of years.
- For instance, there is no intermediate form between the terrestrial ancestor of the whale and the first fossils of this marine mammal.
- Like their current descendants, the latter have nostrils situated atop their heads, a modified respiratory system, new organs like a dorsal fin, and nipples surrounded by a cap to keep out seawater and equipped with a pump for underwater suckling.
- The whale represents the rule, rather than the exception.
- According to biologist Ernst Mayr, an authority on the matter of evolution, there is “no clear evidence for any change of a species into a different genus or for the gradual origin of an evolutionary novelty.” 
A similar problem exists at the cellular level. Microbiologist James Shapiro writes:
- “In fact, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject — evolution — with so little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses work in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity.” 
In the middle of the 1990s, biologists sequenced the first complete genomes of free-living organisms.
- So far, the smallest known bacterial genome contains 580,000 DNA letters.
- This is an enormous amount of information, comparable to the contents of a small telephone directory.
- When one considers that bacteria are the smallest units of life as we know it, it becomes even more difficult to understand how the first bacterium could have taken form spontaneously in a lifeless, chemical soup.
- How can a small telephone directory of information emerge from random processes?
… the existence of master genes points to
the insufficiency of the neodarwinian
model and to the necessity of introducing
into the theory of evolution mechanisms,
either known or to be discovered, that
contradict this model's basic principles.
The genomes of more complex organisms are even more daunting in size.
- Bakers yeast is a unicellular organism that contains 12 million DNA letters;
- The genome of nematodes, which are rather simple multicellular organisms, contains 100 million DNA letters.
- Mouse genomes, like human genomes, contain approximately 3 billion DNA letters.
By mapping, sequencing, and comparing different genomes, biologists have recently found further levels of complexity.
- Some sequences are highly conserved between species.
- For example, 400 human genes match very similar genes in yeast.
- This means these genes have stayed in a nearly identical place and form over hundreds of millions of years of evolution, from a very primitive form of life to a human being.
Some genetic sequences, known as "master genes," control hundreds of other genes like an on/off switch.
- These master genes also seem to be highly conserved across species.
- For example, flies and human beings have a very similar gene that controls the development of the eye, though their eyes are very different.
- Geneticist André Langaney writes that the existence of master genes “points to the insufficiency of the neodarwinian model and to the necessity of introducing into the theory of evolution mechanisms, either known or to be discovered, that contradict this model's basic principles.” 
Recent gene mapping has revealed that, in some areas of the DNA text, genes are thirty times more dense than in other areas, and some of the genes appear to clump together in families that work on similar problems.
- In some cases, gene clumps are highly conserved across species, as in the X chromosome of mice and humans, for example.
- In both species, the X chromosome is a giant molecule of DNA, some 160 million nucleotides long; it is one of the pair of chromosomes that determine whether an offspring is male or female.
- The mapping of the X chromosome has shown that genes are bunched together mostly in five gene-rich regions, with lengthy, apparently desert regions of DNA in between, and that mice and humans have much the same set of genes on their X chromosomes even though the two species have followed separate evolutionary paths for 80 million years.
How can one analyze a text if one
presupposes that no intelligence wrote it?
Recent work on genetic sequences is starting to reveal much greater complexity than could have been conceived even ten years previous to the data's emergence.
- How are scientists going to make sense of the overwhelming complexity of DNA texts? Robert Pollack proposes “that DNA is not merely an informational molecule, but is also a form of text, and that therefore it is best understood by analytical ways of thinking commonly applied to other forms of text, for example, books.” 
This seems to be a sensible suggestion, but it begs the question: How can one analyze a text if one presupposes that no intelligence wrote it?
Despite these essential contradictions, which I sum up here in a few lines but which could fill entire books, the theory of natural selection remains firmly in place in the minds of most biologists.
- This is because it is always possible to claim that the appropriate mutations occurred by chance and were selected.
- But this un-demonstrable proposition is denounced by an increasing number of scientists.
- Pier Luigi Luisi talks of the “tautology of molecular Darwinism … [which] is unable to elicit concepts other than those from which it has been originally constructed.”
The circularity of the Darwinian theory means that it is not falsifiable and therefore not truly scientific.
- The “falsifiability criterion” is the cornerstone of twentieth-century scientific method.
- It was developed by philosopher Karl Popper, who argued that one could never prove a scientific theory to be correct, because only an infinite number of confirming results would constitute definitive proof.
- Popper proposed instead to test theories in ways that seek to contradict, or falsify, them; the absence of contradictory evidence thereby becomes proof of the theory's validity. Popper writes:
- “I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme — a possible framework for testable scientific theories. … It is metaphysical because it is not testable”  (original italics)
Biology is currently divided between a majority who consider the theory of natural selection to be true and established as fact and a minority who question it.
However, the critics of natural selection have yet to come up with a new theory to replace the old one and institutions sustain current orthodoxies by their inertia.
- A new biological paradigm is still a long way off.
My hypothesis is based on the idea
that DNA in particular and
nature in general are minded.
Presuppositions, postulates, and circular arguments pertain more to faith than to science.
- My approach in this book starts from the idea that it is of utmost importance to respect the faith of others, no matter how strange, whether it is shamans who believe plants communicate or biologists who believe nature is inanimate.
I do not intend to attack anybody's faith, but to demarcate the blind spot of the rational and fragmented gaze of contemporary biology and to explain why my hypothesis is condemned in advance to remain in that spot.
To sum up:
- My hypothesis is based on the idea that DNA in particular and nature in general are minded.
- This contravenes the founding principle of the molecular biology that is the current orthodoxy.
The shamanism of which the indigenous people of
the Amazon are the guardians represents knowledge
accumulated over thousands of years in the most
biologically diverse place on earth.
Meanwhile, the Ashaninca people I knew in the Pichis claimed that the best shamans were Shipibo-Conibo (who live in the same area as Amaringo).
- Ruperto Gomez, the ayahuasquero who initiated me, did his apprenticeship with the Shipibo-Conibo, and this conferred undeniable prestige on him.
- So it would seem that studies "abroad" are considered better and that the high place of Amazonian shamanism is always somewhere other than where one happens to be.
Shamanism resembles an academic discipline (such as anthropology or molecular biology); with its practitioners, fundamental researchers, specialists, and schools of thought — it is a way of apprehending the world that evolves constantly.
- One thing is certain: Both indigenous and mestizo shamans consider people like the Shipibo-Conibo, the Tukano, the Kamsá, and the Huitoto as the equivalents to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and the Sorbonne; they are the highest reference in matters of knowledge.
- In this sense, ayahuasca-based shamanism is an essentially indigenous phenomenon.
- It belongs to the indigenous people of Western Amazonia, who hold the keys to a way of knowing that they have practiced without interruption for at least five thousand years.
- In comparison, the universities of the Western world are less than nine hundred years old.
The shamanism of which the indigenous people of the Amazon are the guardians represents knowledge accumulated over thousands of years in the most biologically diverse place on earth.
- Certainly, shamans say they acquire their knowledge directly from the spirits, but they grow up in cultures where shamanic visions are stored in myths.
- In this way mythology informs shamanism: The invisible, life-creating maninkari spirits are the ones whose feats Ashaninca mythology relates, and it is also the maninkari who talk to Ashaninca shamans in their visions and tell them how to heal.
An indigenous culture with sufficient territory, and bilingual and intercultural education, is in a better position to maintain and cultivate its mythology and shamanism.
- Conversely, the confiscation of their lands and imposition of foreign education, which turns their young people into amnesiacs, threatens the survival not only of these people, but of an entire way of knowing.
- It is as if one were burning down the oldest universities in the world and their libraries, one after another — thereby sacrificing the knowledge of the worlds future generations.
I decided to tell my story in an
attempt to create an account that
would be comprehensible across
disciplines and outside the academy.
In this book I chose an autobiographical and narrative approach for several reasons.
- First, I do not believe in an objective point of view with an exclusive monopoly on reality.
- So it seemed important to expose the inevitable presuppositions that any observer has, so that readers may come to their opinion in full knowledge of the setting.
In this sense I belong to the recent movement within anthropology that views the discipline as a form of interpretation rather than as a science.
- However, even among my colleagues who work in this fashion, listening to people carefully, recording and transcribing their words, and interpreting them as well as they can, there remains a problem I have tried to avoid — namely, the compartmentalization of knowledge into disciplines, which means that the discourse of a given specialist is only understandable to his or her immediate colleagues.
- In my opinion, subjects such as DNA and the knowledge of indigenous people are too important to be entrusted solely to the focalized gaze of academic specialists in biology or anthropology; they concern indigenous people themselves, but also midwives, farmers, musicians, and all the rest.
- I decided to tell my story in an attempt to create an account that would be comprehensible across disciplines and outside the academy.
This decision was inspired by shamanic traditions, which invariably state that images, metaphors, and stories are the best means to transmit knowledge.
- In this sense, myths are "scientific narratives," or stories about knowledge (the word "science" comes from the Latin scire, "to know").
I was fortunate to choose this approach, because it was in telling my story that I discovered the real story I wanted to tell.
I draw my inspiration from shamanism, which rests
not on doctrine, but on experience.
There was a price to pay for implicating myself in my work like this.
- I spent many sleepless nights and put a strain on my personal life.
- I was truly bowled over by working on this book.
- At the time, I felt sure it was going to change the world.
- It took months of talking with numerous friends to understand that my hypothesis was not even receivable by official science, despite the scientific elements it contains.
- Since then, I've calmed down and no longer talk away for hours.
We live in a time when it is difficult to speak seriously about ones spirituality.
- Often one only has to state one's convictions to be considered a preacher.
- I, too, support the idea that everybody should be free to believe what they want and that it is nobody's business to tell others what they should believe.
- So I will not describe in detail the impact of my work on my own spirituality, and I will not tell readers what to think about the connections I have established.
Here, too, I draw my inspiration from shamanism, which rests not on doctrine, but on experience.
- The shaman is simply a guide, who conducts the initiate to the spirits.
- The initiate picks up the information revealed by the spirits and does what he or she wants with it.
- Likewise, in this book, I provide a number of connections, with complete references for those who wish to follow a particular trail.
- In the end, it is up to the readers to draw the spiritual conclusions they see fit.
Is there a goal to life? Do we exist for a reason?
- I believe so, and I think that the combination of shamanism and biology gives interesting answers to these questions.
- But I do not feel ready to discuss them from a personal point of view.
The microscopic world of DNA, and its proteins and enzymes, is teeming inside us and is enough to make us marvel.
- Yet rational discourse, which holds a monopoly on the subject, denies itself a sense of wonder.
- Current biologists condemn themselves, through their beliefs, to describe DNA and the cell-based life for which it codes as if they were blind people discussing movies or objective anthropologists explaining the hallucinatory sphere of which they have no experience: They oblige themselves to consider an animate reality as if it were inanimate.
By ignoring this obligation, and by considering shamanism and biology at the same time, stereoscopically, I saw DNA snakes. They were alive.
Scientific discovery often originates
from a combination of focalized
and defocalized consciousness.
The origin of knowledge is a subject that anthropologists neglect — which is one of the reasons that prompted me to write this book.
- However, anthropologists are not alone; scientists in general seem to have a similar difficulty.
- On closer examination, the reason for this becomes obvious: Many of science's central ideas seem to come from beyond the limits of rationalism.
- René Descartes dreams of an angel who explains the basic principles of materialist rationalism to him;
- Albert Einstein daydreams in a tram, approaching another, and conceives the theory of relativity;
- James Watson scribbles on a newspaper in a train, then rides his bicycle to reach the conviction (having "borrowed" Rosalind Franklin's radiophotographic work) that DNA has the form of a double helix. And so on.
Scientific discovery often originates from a combination of focalized and defocalized consciousness.
- Typically, a researcher spends months in the lab working on a problem, considering the data to the point of saturation, then attains illumination while jogging, daydreaming, lying in bed making mental pictures, driving a car, cooking, shaving, bathing — in brief, while thinking about something else and defocalizing.
- W. I. B. Beveridge writes in The art of scientific investigation:
- “The most characteristic circumstances of an intuition are a period of intense work on the problem accompanied by a desire for its solution, abandonment of the work perhaps with attention to something else, then the appearance of the idea with dramatic suddenness and often a sense of certainty. Often there is a feeling of exhilaration and perhaps surprise that the idea had not been thought of previously.” 
During this investigation I complemented months of straightforward scholastic work (reading, note taking, and categorizing) with defocalized approaches (such as walking in nature, nocturnal soliloquies, dissonant music, daydreaming), which greatly helped me find my way.
- My inspiration for this is once again shamanic.
- But shamans are not the only ones to seek knowledge by cultivating defocalization.
- Artists have done this throughout the ages.
- As Antonin Artaud wrote: “I abandon myself to the fever of dreams, in search for new laws.” 
How can one explain these similarities
with a concept other than chance?
Did I see imaginary connections in my fever?
- Am I wrong in linking DNA to these cosmic serpents from around the world, these sky-ropes and axis mundi?
- Some of my colleagues will think so. Here's one of the reasons:
In the nineteenth century the first anthropologists set about comparing cultures and elaborating theories on the basis of the similarities they found.
- When they discovered, for instance, that bagpipes were played not only in Scotland, but in Arabia and the Ukraine, they established false connections between these cultures.
- Then they realized that people could do similar things for different reasons.
- Since then, anthropology has backed away from grand generalizations, denounced “abuses of the comparative method,” and locked itself into specificity bordering on myopia.
- This is why anthropologists who study Western Amazonia's hallucinatory shamanism limit themselves to specific analyses of a given culture — failing to see the essential common points between cultures.
- So their fine-grained analyses allow them to see that the diet of an apprentice ayahuasquero is based on the consumption of bananas and/or fish.
- But they do not notice that this diet is practiced throughout Western Amazonia, and so they do not consider that it may have a biochemical basis — which in fact it does.
By shunning comparisons between cultures, one ends up masking true connections and fragmenting reality a little more, without even realizing it.
Is the cosmic serpent of the Shipibo-Conibo, the Aztecs, the Australian Aborigines, and the Ancient Egyptians the same?
- No, will reply the anthropologists who insist on cultural specificity; to believe otherwise, according to them, comes down to making the same mistake as Mircea Eliade four decades ago, when he detached all those symbols from their contexts, obliterated the sociocultural aspect of phenomena, mutilated the facts, and so on.
- The critique is well known now, and it is time to turn it on its head.
- In the name of what does one mask fundamental similarities in human symbolism — if not out of a stubborn loyalty to rationalist fragmentation?
- How can one explain these similarities with a concept other than chance — which is more an absence of concept than anything?
- Why insist on taking reality apart, but never try putting it back together again?
According to my hypothesis,
shamans take their consciousness
down to the molecular level and gain
access to biomolecular information.
According to my hypothesis, shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access to biomolecular information.
- But what actually goes on in the brain/mind of an ayahuasquero when this occurs?
- What is the nature of a shamans communication with the animate essences of nature?
- The clear answer is that more research is needed in consciousness, shamanism, molecular biology, and their interrelatedness.
Rationalism separates things to understand them.
- But its fragmented disciplines have limited perspectives and blind spots.
- And as any driver knows, it is important to pay attention to blind spots, because they can contain vital information.
- To reach a fuller understanding of reality, science will have to shift its gaze.
- Could shamanism help science to defocalize?
- My experience indicates that engaging shamanic knowledge requires looking into a great number of disciplines and thinking about how they fit together.
We do not have the slightest idea
about how life got started.
Finally, a last question: Where does life come from?
Over the last decade, scientific research has come up against the impossibility that a single bacterium, representing the smallest unit of independent life as we know it, could have emerged by chance from any kind of "prebiotic soup." 
- Given that a cosmic origin, such as the one proposed by Francis Crick in his “directed panspermia” speculation, is not scientifically verifiable, scientists have focused almost exclusively on terrestrial scenarios.
- According to these, precursor molecules took shape (by chance) and prepared the way for a world based on DNA and proteins.
- However, these different scenarios — based on RNA, peptides, clay, undersea volcanic sulfur, or small oily bubbles — all propose explanations relying on systems that have, by definition, been replaced by life as we know it, without leaving any traces.
- These, too, are speculations that cannot be verified scientifically.
The scientific study of the origins of life leads to an impasse, where agnosticism seems to be the only reasonable and rigorous position.
- As Robert Shapiro writes in his book Origins: A skeptic's guide to the creation of life on Earth:
- “We do not have the slightest idea about how life got started. The very particular set of chemicals that were necessary remains unknown to us. The process itself could have included an improbable event, as it could have happened according to a practically ineluctable sequence. It could have required several hundred million years, or only a few millennia. It could have happened in a tepid pool, or in a hydrothermal source at the bottom of the ocean, in a bubble in the atmosphere, or somewhere else than on Earth, out in the cosmos.” 
Any certitude on this question is a matter of faith.
- So what do shamanic and mythological traditions say in this regard? According to Lawrence Sullivan, who has studied the indigenous religions of South America in detail:
- “In the myths recorded to date, the majority of South American cultures show little extended interest in absolute beginnings.” 
Where does life come from?
- Perhaps the answer is not graspable by mere human beings.
- Chuang-Tzu implied as much a long time ago, when he wrote:
- “There is a beginning.
There is a not yet beginning to be a beginning.
There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be a beginning.
There is being.
There is nonbeing.
There is a not yet beginning to be nonbeing.
There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be nonbeing.
Suddenly there is nonbeing.
But I do not know, when it comes to nonbeing, which is really being and which is nonbeing.
Now I have just said something.
But I do not know whether what I have said has really said something or whether it hasn't said something.” 
All things considered, wisdom requires not only the investigation of many things, but contemplation of the mystery.
Axis of the world
58-59, 78-79, 87, 121
49-50, 55, 65, 67, 73-75, 85, 89
23-24, 53, 82
54, 72-74, 78, 87, 97
1, 4, 6-8, 11, 18-19, 21, 24, 28-32, 37, 44-47, 49-52, 55, 57-59, 73, 79, 84, 86-87, 90, 94, 97-98, 115, 121-122
Beveridge, W. I. B.
11-12, 38, 43-45, 48-50, 52, 80, 90-91, 93-94, 107
Chucano Santos, José
66, 83, 128
11, 42-43, 45, 49, 57, 90-91, 94, 99, 101-102, 104, 107-108, 125, 127
61-63, 103-104, 128
36-37, 57, 84, 93
12, 103, 111-113
11, 44, 94-95, 98-99, 101
48-49, 51-63, 68-72, 74, 76-79, 82-85, 89-91, 94-99, 101-107, 109, 111-115,
17, 54, 59, 72, 74, 87, 126
4, 84, 122
47-51, 59, 63
77, 101, 109
Linnaeus, Carl von
Luisi, Pier Luigi
Luna, Luis Eduardo
13-15, 17, 53
Nash, J. Madeleine
23-24, 28, 31, 81-82, 90, 122
90-93, 98-99, 101
Perez Shuma, Carlos
19, 40, 54, 74, 82, 86, 90, 94, 97, 117, 119
28-29, 89, 97
43, 91-93, 95-96, 98, 100-101, 106, 109
49-50, 57, 100
Schultes, Richard E.
11, 38, 73
43, 45, 52, 95
49-51, 53-57, 59, 61, 63-69, 71-74, 78, 81, 85, 87-90, 119, 126
1, 7-8, 19, 21, 27, 29-32, 34, 44-45, 49-51, 55-56, 58, 63-67, 71, 73, 85-89, 93, 124
4, 60, 84, 95
7, 20, 24, 8-29, 31-32, 90-93, 97-98, 100
51, 53, 59, 69, 82
23-24, 72, 82
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52-, 52-, 57-,
72-, 77-, 77-,
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Browman and Schwarz (1979)
Burroughs and Ginsberg (1963)
Calladine and Drew (1992)
Chapela et al. (1994)
68-, 68-, 72-,
11-, 52-, 57-
Chevalier and Gheerbrant (1982)
Christensen and Narby (1992)
Cimino et al. (1992)
Cohen et al. (1967)
Couturier et al. (1990)
Culotta and Koshland (1994)
56-, 56-, 66-
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68-, 68-, 128-
Deneris et al. (1991)
de Rosnay (1966)
Dishotsky et al. (1971)
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Dobkin de Rios and Katz (1975)
12-, 52-, 57-, 87-
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Frederickson and Onstott (1996)
68-, 72-, 77-,
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11-, 52-, 52-
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Grinspoon and Bakalar (1979)
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80-, 99-, 99-,
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Kaplan et al. (1974)
Kato and Jarvik (1969)
72-, 77-, 79-,
Kato et al. (1970)
Klaasen and Wong (1993)
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La Barre (1976)
Lee and Shlain (1985)
Lee et al. (1996)
Lewis, D. (1973)
52-, 57-, 87-
Lewis, I. (1971)
Lewis, J., et al. (1987)
Luna and Amaringo (1991)
97-, 101-, 101-
11-, 52-, 52-,
58-, 79-, 87-,
Mabit et al. (1992)
McKenna, T. (1988)
McKenna, Luna, and Towers (1986)
McKenna and McKenna (1975)
McKenna and Peroutka (1990)
McKenna, Towers, and Abbott (1984)
McKenna et al. (1989)
Margulis and Sagan (1986)
68-, 68-, 70-,
Mitchell et al. (1993)
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Moorhead and Kaplan (1967)
Murphy et al. (1993)
Mushegian and Koonin (1996)
66-, 67-, 88-
Orgel and Crick (1980)
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77-, 77-, 109-
Pierce and Peroutka (1989)
Pitt et al. (1994)
Popp, Gu, and Li (1994)
68-, 70-, 70-,
97-, 97-, 97-
97-, 97-, 99-,
Radman and Wagner (1988)
Rattemeyer et al. (1981)
84-, 97-, 101-
Rivier and Lindgren (1972)
Rosenberg et al. (1963)
Sagan and editors (1993)
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Schultes and Raffauf (1990)
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6-, 11-, 11-,
Slade and Bentall (1988)
Smith, D. (1994)
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Smythies and Antun (1969)
Smythies et al. (1979)
Strassman and Qualls (1994)
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44-, 44-, 94-,
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85-, 88-, 108-