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Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge Paperback – 7 Oct 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (7 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075380851X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753808511
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A fascinating and unique anthropological study.

About the Author

Jeremy Narby studied history at the University of Canterbury and received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University. For two years he lived with the Ashaninca Indians in the Peruvian Amazon, studying their methods of using the forest's resources. He lives in switzerland with his wife and children.

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Customer Reviews

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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter Phillips on 27 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Cosmic Serpent is a book written by an anthropologist who sets out to aid indigneous peoples keeping rights to their land by demonstrating that their knowledge of the fauna and flora allows them to use the rainforest as a natural pharmacy, during his time with these peoples his life is re-directed by the honest spiritual accounts of the 'ayahuasqueros' the local shamans. Years later he cannot ignore the spiritual elements of what he learned with these people and he begins to push at the boundaries of the known sciences.

The book is written in a very readable manner, and even though the author has little or no background in other sciences he has gone into great detail in his research. I think this book would be quite readable for those with no science type background right up to those with a good knowledge of biochemistry, but an open mind is needed to observe the logic Narby works with.

As pointed out in some of his other reviews his logic can seem to leap a little far sometimes, e.g. a plumed snake from the Aztec mythology representing both 'serpent' and 'non-serpent'. However i believe this is more to do with the detail he has gone into for when he states examples from other known myths and civilisations, books on ancient Aztec and Mayan civilisations would explain this conclusion a little more.

Parts of this book read very much like Bill Brysons short history of nearly everything, and it is wonderful to read the fascinating facts of DNA and biochemistry first hand from someone who has just learned about the awe inspiring facts of our bodies and there secret codes. I think Narby gives a much needed push to some 'accepted' areas of science.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Frank on 25 Oct. 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book takes you on an unexpected and surprising journey. Ever since sub-atomic physics discovered that the presence of the experimenter alters the outcome of any experiment - ie that pure objectivity is no longer possible - some avant garde scientists have slowly begun to see reality through new eyes. More and more scientists are beginning to discover what every good intuitive already knows: that an inherent intelligence pervades all things. This idea flies directly in the face of old 'objective' science which rests on materialist philosophy. This philosophy claims, for instance, that we will ultimately be able to understand life as just a series of chemical reactions. Jeremy Narby, a scientist himself, begins The Cosmic Serpent with this materialistic perspective but gradually, in the face of more and more overwhelming and compelling evidence finds himself forced to challenge the materialist philosophy on which science is based as he discovers the active intelligent, coded language at the heart of life itself, in the DNA. This is something way beyond the blind chemistry of materialistic science. DNA originated life as we understand it 3500 million years ago almost as soon as the planet cooled enough to sustain it and, according to the fossil record, with hardly enough time to develop anything so sophisticated. Scientists are inclined to think that only humans have been intelligent enough to invent language. So where did the ultra sophisticated coded language embedded in DNA come from? What is it saying?
This book is like discovering those important pieces of the jig-saw puzzle you've been looking for everywhere. It explains some of the mysteries.
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101 of 106 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Pearce on 27 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
In The Cosmic Serpent anthropologist Jeremy Narby sets himself the enormous undertaking of attempting to provide a rational, scientific explanation for the realm of the non-rational and the spiritual - how Amazonian shamans (known as ayahuasqueros) obtain their valuable knowledge of plants. Narby's central thesis in the book is as follows:
1.Snakes are important in shamanic work in many indigenous cultures and especially appear regularly in hallucinations caused by the powerful plant-based drug ayahuasca.
2.Snakes and DNA look very similar.
3.Therefore what the ayahuasqueros call 'maninkari' or spirits, and cite as the source of their knowledge is actually DNA. By using ayahuasca, ayahuasqueros are in fact able to connect their consciousness to the biomolecular level of their DNA and use it to communicate with 'the global network of DNA-based life' (p.111) so accessing the knowledge that is stored in the DNA double-helix of all life-forms throughout the planet.

Narby's first person narrative and enormous enthusiasm for his subject is accessible and engaging, and I found the first four chapters of the book compelling as he analyses how unlikely it is that the sophisticated botanical knowledge of the indigenous Amazonian peoples could have been discovered simply by chance. He argues convincingly that plant-based substances such as curare and ayahuasca are so extremely complex to produce that the knowledge of how to create them cannot have been derived from simple trial and error but must have come from somewhere beyond everyday human consciousness.

The rest of the book is spent outlining and exploring his working hypothesis concerning the relationship between shamanically derived knowledge, snakes and DNA.
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