The author, Jeremy Narby, is a Swiss anthropologist who studied shaman cultures in the Amazon Basin. Last I read, he was shielding their cultural heritage by finding royalties for their guardianship of unique biota and habitats.
He noted that Western surgeons use curare in their high-tech surgery. Most doctors know in a vague sort of way how curare works, but have little idea how it was discovered.
The drug can be cooked up from about seventy different tropical plants. This jungle recipe, however, releases a pleasingly fragrant, absolutely lethal gas.
Imagine tribal leaders, thoughtful shamans and sharp young acolytes (otherwise, the whole village) found mysteriously lifeless around an experimental fire. No injury or sign of struggle. Talk about scary! By rights, this process and its primary ingredients should have been declared taboo a long time ago and forbidden forever.
Another ethno-botanist was sent back to the shamans to ask them how they had learned to cook up curare. He refused to believe their story when they told him they’d learned the trick from their hallucinations.
They needed to drop monkeys from tall trees for food. Otherwise, they were starving. They had hunted out all the other game, yet lots of monkeys perched out of reach in the trees. They got high and made their request to the Cosmic Serpent. According to them, it taught them how to cook up curare and blow-dart monkeys out of the trees.
“Set a special fire: slow and long-lasting, a day’s walk from any habitation. Mix the following magical jungle greens to cook for 24 hours. Walk away right away and don’t come back until the next day. At that point, here’s what to do to make a blow gun.” What amazing instructions!
Shamans induce revelatory hallucinations by taking drugs, fasting, dancing, drumming, singing and meditating beyond the point of exhaustion. Across the globe, an international brotherhood of independent shamans has reported similar visions. It consists of two wavy parallel lines rather like the two-headed chromosome chain of a diploid cell, like the messenger god Hermes’ winged Caduceus with two intertwined snakes of medical symbolism, or the Rod of Asclepius (similar to the stick used by healers throughout history to spool from the skin of a human host a two-foot guinea worm during its nocturnal emergence). At other times, the hallucinatory vision is of a dragon, a ladder to heaven or what sounds a lot like DNA helices, to our science-honed prejudices.
The game of Snakes and Ladders comes to mind, as does the Plumed Serpent, bringer of science to pre-Columbian civilizations, including Coatzacoalcos or Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, Q'uq'umatz of the K'iche' Maya, Kukulkan of the Maya and Viracocha of the Inca.
In addition, there’s Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Scandinavian mythology (meaning Arctic shaman epics fogged up with Viking mead hall clichés). There are other mythical World Trees whose aerial branches and subterranean roots are symmetrical. Amazonian incarnations include a Black Python and a Rainbow Boa intertwined.
“The foundation of Funan [southern Cambodia] is ascribed to an Indian Brahman, Kaundinya, who in the first century A.D., following instruction in a dream, picked a magic bow from a temple, embarked on a merchant vessel, and reached Funan. There, he defeated the local queen, Soma, daughter of the king of the Nagas (cobras), married her, and began a royal line. This legend of the mystical union between the Brahman and the serpent, giving the dynasty a dual legitimacy of an Indian origin as well as roots in the popular indigenous mythology in which belief in earth, water and snakes was important, was adopted by several Southeast Asian kingdoms, including Champa, Angkor, and Kedah, to name only a few. The cobra was regarded the lord of the earth and therefore commanded reverence from agricultural people.” D.R. SarDesai, Southeast Asia: Past and Present, Westview Press, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., Boulder, Colorado, 1997, pp. 23-24.
A similar rainbow serpent is fundamental to the beliefs of Bushmen in Australia, also to a voodoo myth according to which the rainbow serpent (Aida Wedo, Ayida Wedo) and the cosmic serpent (Danh-Gbwe, Dambala Wedo) embraced to create the universe and the world.
Zeus defeated Typhon and trapped it under Mt. Aetna. It was the most deadly monster of Greek mythology, the last son of Gaia by Tartarus, the lower half of whose body consisted of gigantic viper coils covered with wings.
For once-arboreal primates like our pre-human predecessors, the most nightmarish primeval monster would be some combination of snake and bird of prey.
The serpent Vritra had swallowed all the cosmic waters and coiled itself around a mountain. The god Indra killed it with a thunderbolt and thus released the yearly monsoon upon the land parched by its drinking.
In ancient Egypt, the uraeus (from the Greek for cobra, an emblem thereof) was a headdress worn by gods and kings to represent supreme power. The uroboros, a snake swallowing its tail, is a Jungian symbol adopted by many cultures to represent infinity. African equivalents include Oshunmare and Aidophedo; there are some more among South American jungle natives. Hindu folk myths include the serpent Adisesha, which called itself into being.
Mythological and religious fish symbols can be included here, along with Leviathan and Christ’s sign of the fish. See http://www.reptilianagenda.com/research/r073101d.html for a more extensive listing of mythological serpents.
About 412 million miles of DNA are tightly knotted in each human body. Those strands emit coherent light at very low wattage (like a weak laser). Shaman visions are incandescent; a complex, high-pitched music accompanies them. This DNA pulsation within us might sound like cosmic laughter to our tin ears, like the music of the spheres, the still, small voice revealer of muted truths—or just the flow of blood in our ears equally stuffed with DNA, amplified by the Universe supposed to be beyond the self. The hallucinatory setting is one of stellar proportion, overwhelming sound and kaleidoscopic luminescence. It holds infinite promise yet dire consequences, compared to which our personal lives and deaths might seem like no big deal.
During auspicious hallucinations, a serpent, an animal familiar or some other wise spirit reveals itself, answers challenging questions and offers sound advice—as long as the inquirer shares this information for the benefit of all. Otherwise, if evildoers abuse this gift, that creature never returns to their visions, which become nightmares without its aid. This often leads to the strays’ death by accident or suicide.
According to the author’s brilliant conclusions, DNA:
· engages all of its living incarnations in endless conversation;
· interacts playfully with the “inanimate” world;
· orchestrates all the energy in the universe;
· plays a laser concerto within each body, especially during Dreamtime and nightly dreaming; and
· delivers a long sermon to its more contemplative carriers.
In other words, the Cosmic Serpent talks to all the DNA, the inanimate matter and the residual energy in the Universe. “I’m so pretty, oh so pretty…”
Next time you go outside, picture every tree, bush, grass, animal, insect and microbe – out to the horizon and beyond – in conversation (some say in love) with each other and with you. What a rush I got when this idea suddenly flooded my worldview!
“In truth, I doubt if there is a more decisive moment for a thoughtful being than when, the scales having fallen from his eyes, he finds he is not lost in cosmic solitude, but that the universal will to live draws together and is humanized within him.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Human Phenomenon, (adapted from the translation of) Bernard Wall, trans., Wm. Collins Sons & Co Ltd., London and Harper and Row, Publishers, New York, 1959, p. 30.
By means of shaman visions, DNA endeavors to describe itself more fully. These revelations allow it (and us, its latest favorite pupils) to become more self-aware, powerful and selective.
Our juvenile weapon religions have harbored one or more myths according to which a jealous man-child-God confronts, banishes and/or kills the Serpent. Such myths are commonplace. They include the Biblical Serpent cast out from the Garden of Eden, Hercules’ slaying of a pair of pythons in his crib, also Ladon, the dragon guardian of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides—which leads to the field of dragons that I will merely mention in passing.
In the Hindu pantheon, Krishna, the avatar or son of Vishnu, killed Naraka, King of the Serpents. The Scandinavian thunder god, Thor, is in eternal conflict with a sea serpent named Jormugand, and the two are prophesied to kill each another during the end of the world, Ragnarok.
“In Cadmus’ tale, as in the Old Testament, the serpent plays the villain’s role. Remember that until the appearance of the written work, a writhing snake had been a graphic symbol of female sexual energy and power. Shortly after writing’s acceptance across the ancient world, male heroes dispatched serpents in order to acquire knowledge or to gain power. Marduk became omnipotent by defeating Tiamat, whose form was a sea snake. In Egypt, Ptah defeated the loathsome serpent, Apophasis. In Canaan, El defeated the dreaded sea monster, Yam. Later, Baal slew Lotan, another sea serpent. Apollo, the god whose sacred gift was the alphabet, gained control of the important function of foresight by slaying the terrible she-snake Python, guardian of the Delphic Oracle. Perseus killed Medusa, a sorceress with a head of snakes instead of hair. Medusa’s most powerful weapon was her image: any man who gazed on her turned to stone. But at the dawn of literacy, Medusa met the fate reserved for all she-serpents.
“Biblical scholars have identified Psalms 74 and 89 as the two oldest passages in the Old Testament. Each psalm tells a Creation story that predates Genesis, in which Yahweh gains dominion over the universe by killing Leviathan (or Rahab), both sea serpents. The universe, therefore, must have been created by some other entity, perhaps Leviathan.” Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image, 1998, Penguin Group, New York, p. 122.
In Rune XXVI of the Finish epic, Kalevala, the hero Ahti commands the serpent of a thousand tongues to get out of his way (which it does, peacefully), as he quests to crash the wedding feast of Pohyala, the rainbow virgin.
During the third of his seven labors, the Persian hero Rostam awakens to slay a dragon serpent that was harrying his warhorse, Rakhsh, while Rostam slept.
The Kusanagi no Tsurugi, or Grass-Cutting Sword, is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, representing the virtue of Valor (the other two, Wisdom and Benevolence). The storm god Susanoo is said to have cut it out of an eight-headed serpent.
Thus have we rejected this cosmic energy source. Dr. Shlain restricts it to a female entity in the right-brain of both males and females, which theory he validates in the rest of his fascinating book.
Learner concludes it is DNA, pure and simple (an all-powerful agent, from our stunted point of view): the material and biological equivalent of our ephemeral alphanumeric culture and its originator.
Duped by pretty much interchangeable weapon priesthoods, we have replaced this primal faith with their anthropomorphic and ego-centered God-fantasies. This full-time state of denial has forbidden us to soothe our psyches, it has made us strangely reluctant to caretake the natural world: our obvious responsibility.
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. The same was in the beginning with God.
3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7. The same, came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man which cometh into the world.
10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14. And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Q’ran contains a Sura on this topic (The light, An-Nur), whose similarity/dissimilarity with the initial Hebrew text is characteristic. I leave it to your interpretation. Please excuse my clumsy patchwork of three English translations and three French ones. The Q’ran, 24:35, which paragraph I first noted in Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, (Warner Books edition, Hachette Book Group USA, New York, 1991, p. 173.
The Parable of His light
Is like a niche with a lamp
The lamp is in a crystal
And the crystal, like a glittering star
Kindled from a Blessed Tree
Its olive, neither from the East nor the West
Whose oil would shine almost by itself,
Though no fire touched it;
Light upon Light --
God guides to His Light whom He will
God gives parables to human beings,
God knows everything.
I submit that prehistoric gardeners may have been endowed with Vedic guidance through shaman hallucinations. Armed with unlimited amounts of time, curiosity and patience, they could have exercised elementary skills like comparative anatomy and botanical chemistry, and used technologies as simple as ceramics and pottery wheel centrifuges. In so doing, they delved much deeper into genetic architecture than our genetic engineers dare imagine. All they would have needed was some botanical potion to strip away cell walls and expose the DNA within—then lots of patience and good counsel.
We will have to resolve many looming technical problems to re-establish PeaceWorld; problems that plague us today, of pollution, infrastructure collapse, deadly bionanotech errors, weapon misuse and other complex interactions. We would do so by exploring this shaman universe methodically, without fear or prejudice.
The deadliest features of current technologies are the multiplicity and intensity of their unintended consequences. We must find “miraculous” methods to anticipate and neutralize them. Those methods should be natural, commonplace and practical. Honoring our scientific principles, any honest researcher should be able to duplicate prior results using similar methods. New technologies should prove reliable and safe—or at least safer than equivalent “scientific” operations carried out today, regardless of consequences. They would be subject to rigorous scientific standards and tool kits, plus a lot more open-mindedness than our current understanding maintains (or refuses to) these days.
Compared to infant human culture, DNA is pretty old and wise. Unlike highly vulnerable human civilization, DNA has absorbed the worst this universe could throw at it and thrived. Any resolutions we derive in conversation with the fundamental spirit of DNA would be of benefit to both parties. Thus, with reasonable care, both sides might avoid the worst of the unintended consequences we seem to be headed for, otherwise.
Those in the near future threaten fantastic peril, should we fail to do so.