Archive for March, 2013

Snakes as Newscasters — Jeremy Narby

March 23, 2013

     “In my opinion, this is a typical example of a reductionist, illogical, and inexact answer.  Do people really venerate what they fear most? Do people suffering from phobia of spiders, for instance, decorate their clothes with images of spiders, saying, “We venerate these animals because we find them repulsive”? Hardly,  Therefore, I doubt that Siberian shamans embellish their costumes with a great number of ribbons representing serpents simply because they suffer from a phobia of these reptiles.  Besides, most of the serpents found in the costumes of Siberian shamans do not represent real animals, but snakes with two tails.  In a great number of creation myths, the serpent that plays the main part is not a real reptile; it is a cosmic serpent and often has two heads, two feet, or two wings or is so big that it wraps around the earth.  Furthermore, venerated serpents are often nonvenomous.  in the Amazon, the nonvenomous snakes such as anacondas and boas are the ones that people consider sacred, like the cosmic anaconda Ronin.  There is no lack of aggressive and deadly snakes with devastating venom in the Amazon, such as the bushmaster and the fer-de-lance, which are an everyday threat to life – and yet, they are never worshiped. 18

The answer, for me, lies elsewhere — which does not mean that primates do not suffer from an instinctive, or even a “programmed,” fear of snakes.  My answer is speculative, but could not be more restricted than the generally accepted theory of venom phobia.  It is that the global network of DNA-based life emits ultra-weak radio waves, which are currently at the limits of measurement, but which we can nonetheless perceive in states of defocalization, such as hallucinations and dreams.  As the aperiodic crystal of DNA is shaped like two entwined serpents, two ribbons, a twisted ladder, a cord, or a vine, we see in our trances serpents, ladders, cords, vines, trees, spirals, crystals, and so on.  Because DNA is a master of transformation, we also see jaguars, caymans, bulls, or any other living being.  But the favorite newscasters on DNA-TV seem unquestionably to be enormous, fluorescent serpents.

This leads me to suspect that the cosmic serpent is narcissistic — or, at least, obsessed with its own reproduction, even in imagery.”

Chapter 8 Through the Eyes of an Ant p.115-116

” During my readings, I learned wih astonishment that 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).”22

This was a serious trail, but I did not know how to follow it.  There was no proof that the light emitted by DNA was wha shamans saw in their visions.  Furthermore, there was a fundamental aspect of this photon emission that I could not grasp.  According to the researchers who measured it, its weakness is such that it corresponds “to the intensity of a candle at a distance of about 10 kilometers,” but it has “a surprisingly high degree of coherence, as compared to that of technical fields (laser).”23  How could an ultra-weak signal be highly coherent?  How could a distant candle be compared to a “laser”?

After thinking about it at length, I came to understand that the coherence of biophotons depended not so much on the intensity of their output as on its regularity.  In a coherent source of light, the quantity of photons emitted may vary, but the emission intervals remain constant.

DNA emits photons with such regularity that researchers compare the phenomenon to an “ultra-weak laser.”  I could understand that much, bu still could not see what it implied for my investigation.  I turned to my scientific journalist friend, who explained it immediately: “A coherent source of light, like a laser, gives the sensation of bright colors, a luminescence, and an impression of holographic depth.”24

Chapter 9 Receptors and Transmitters p 126-127

The rational approach starts from the idea that everything is explainable and that mysery is in some sense the enemy.  This means that it prefers pejorative, and even wrong, answers to admitting its own lack of understanding.

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. 14 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.

Chapter 10 Biology’s Blindspot p139-140

14.  According to several recent studies, non-coding DNA might actually play a structural role and display the characteristics of a language, the meaning of which remains to be determined.  See Flam (1994), Pennisi (1994), and Moore (1996).

18.  Drummond (1981), one of hte rare critics of Mundkur’s theory, writes: “Mundkur finds that the relevant empirical feature is its venom: ‘The serpent, in my view, has provoked veneration primarily through the power of its venom.’ In making this generalization, he apparently forgets the several examples of venerated but nonvenomous serpents (i.e., boas and pythons) cited in his useful survey of the ‘serpent cult.’  Indeed, it would be difficult to make sense of ‘The Serpent’s Children’ and other Amazonian anaconda myths in an ethnographic context where the fer-de-lance and bushmaster are an everyday threat to life” (p.643).  Meanwhile, Eliade (1964) writes about the costume of the Altaic shaman: ” A quantity of ribbons and kerchiefs sewn to its frock represent snakes, some of them being shaped into snakes’ heads with two eyes and open jaws.  The tails of the larger snakes are forked and sometimes three snakes have only one head.  It is said that a wealthy shaman should have 1,070 snakes on his costume” (p 152)
22.  Popp (1986, p. 207)
23.  Popp (1986, pp. 209, 207).  See also POpp, Gu and Li (1994) regarding the coherence in biophoton emission.
24.  Suren Erkman, personal communication, 1995.

The Cosmic Serpent — DNA — and the Origins of Knowledge.



March 5, 2013
It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we may not remain standing. – R. M. Rilke
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