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. 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