The Cosmic Serpent

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The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
Cosmic serpent.jpg
Penguin paperback cover, showing symbolic correspondence between an image of a snake and DNA
AuthorJeremy Narby
Original titleLe serpent cosmique, l'ADN et les origines du savoir
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint
Followed byIntelligence in Nature 

The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge is a 1998 non-fiction book by anthropologist Jeremy Narby.


Narby performed two years of field work in the Pichis Valley of the Peruvian Amazon researching the ecology of the Asháninka, an indigenous peoples in Peru. The following have been reviewed from an indigenous perspective by Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the origins of knowledge, 1999). Any such sense of "coiling" is of course consistent with the perception that argument regarding the spiritual dimension is "convoluted".

It is appropriate to note the degree to which such an understanding is in sympathy with traditional mythological insights such as:

  • Shesha is one of the primal beings of creation within the Hindu (Vedic) tradition, sometimes referred to as "Ananta-Shesha", namely "Endless Shesha." Generally depicted as a massive form floating coiled in space, or on the universal ocean; more commonly as a many hundred-headed serpent, sometimes with each head wearing an ornate crown. It is said that when Adishesa uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place; when he coils back, the universe ceases to exist[1]
  • Jörmungandr of Norse mythology, alternately referred to as the Midgard Serpent or the World Serpent.
  • Rainbow Serpent, a common theme in all Australian Aboriginal tradition -- a 'great energy current (ocean circulation)' that travels the world (cf Rainbow Serpent Project). If the ocean current temperature at different locations were to be indicated by colour coding (as viewed in infra red), the rainbow effect of the ocean conveyor would indeed be apparent
  • Ouroboros, as one of the oldest mythological symbols of circularity and continuity -- of a snake biting its tail (cf Ouroboros Research and Education Trust)[2]


Investigating the connections between shamanism and molecular biology, Narby hypothesizes that shamans may be able to access information at the molecular level through the ingestion of entheogens, specifically ayahuasca.[3] Biophysicist Jacques Dubochet criticized Narby for not testing his hypothesis.[3]


Narby and three molecular biologists revisited the Peruvian Amazon to try to test the hypothesis, and their work is featured in the documentary film, Night of the Liana.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ citation needed
  2. ^ Judge, Anthony (2007-05-20). "Potential Misuse of the Conveyor Metaphor: Recognition of the circular dynamic essential to its appropriate operation". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b Narby, Jeremy (2006). Intelligence in Nature. Penguin. pp. 1–2, 149–150. ISBN 1-58542-399-8.
  4. ^ Grant, John (2006). Discarded Science. Sterling Publishing. pp. 285–286. ISBN 1-904332-49-8.

Further reading[edit]