Saturday, October 14, 2006
I used to teach an essay by Isaac Asimov called "The Eureka Phenonemon." A die-hard atheist--a scientist himself with advanced degrees--dared compare scientific inspiration to visionary mysticism in an essay, and I found this fascinating. Of course Asimov credited subconscious thought for the mysterious workings behind the phenomenon. He would have regarded The Cosmic Serpent as rubbish of the highest order. I'm sure Stephen Jay Gould would have also.
When I taught Asimov's essay I would spend a lot of time doing what I called "back-filling." My freshman English students had no idea what the Enlightenment was, or what mysticism meant. I had to pause and explain these things in some detail so they could 'get' the essay. I would also at the end of my talk ask the students if they could think of other explanations for "The Eureka Phenomenon." Most of those who responded said that God was revealing Truth to Man.
Then I would tell them how I thought the process worked, and I was very interested to see Mr. Narby, PhD, outlining almost exactly my (much less rigorously presented) train of thought. He even uses the exact illustration (entwined serpents as DNA) with which I would torment my class. I would show them PowerPoint slides of: a caduceus, an Indian chakra painting, a diagram of Chinese chi lines, and then ask them to consider how similar these ancient images were to our modern conception of the structure of DNA. I spoke of consciousness as the ground of existence and intuition as simply the ability to read this underlying unified web of connection. The students had trouble accepting that I was also an atheist like Asimov, but I see no contradiction. Narby is blown away by his conclusion--that DNA is conscious, and that shamans actually communicate with DNA under trance states--and describes his awakening as spiritual. His book remains sober and almost cautious in making its claims nonetheless. I read it in a few hours and admired it a great deal. William Blake would approve.