18+ quotes from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby

Quotes from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge

Jeremy Narby ·  257 pages

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“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“In truth, ayahuasca is the television of the forest.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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. ”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“Wisdom requires not only the investigation of many things, but contemplation of the mystery.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“This is an old problem: Knowledge calls for more knowledge,”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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. ”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of 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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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. ”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“In shamanic traditions, it is invariably specified that spiritual knowledge is not marketable. Certainly, the shaman’s work deserves retribution, but, by definition, the sacred is not for sale; the use of this knowledge for the accumulation of personal power is the definition of black magic.”
― Jeremy Narby, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


“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, quote from The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge


About the author

Jeremy Narby
Born place: Montreal, Canada
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