News \

This Month’s Book: Narby’s ‘The Cosmic Serpent’

In an attempt to prove that musicians aren’t just products of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, SPIN.com has gathered together an eclectic group of literary-minded musicians to participate in our monthly online book club. Each month, a different artist will select a book that has impacted his/her music career and our club will read and discuss. We bring you the highlights. CURATED BY EMILY ZEMLER

This Month’s Selection:
The Cosmic Serpent, by Jeremy Narby, 1998
BUY FROM AMAZON

Selected by:
Colin Frangicetto, guitarist for Circa Survive

Reason for Selection:
“Hallucinogenic drugs. Cells that are conscious. Talking plants and animals. Shamans and the scientists. The intelligence of nature. The origins of knowledge. Somehow all of these things are tied to the serpent’s relation to the DNA double helix. I read this book on tour after it was left in our van by a friend. It took me two days and then I read again. You’ll never look at a snake the same.”

Discussion highlights:

“When it comes to mysticism, to call myself a skeptic is a euphemism. Not to imply in the least that I am not compelled by the subject. I’m drawn to it in the same way I’m drawn to scandals and political conspiracy. Yet, Narby, knowing his audience to be scientifically-minded and thereby skeptical by nature, wisely embarks from the standpoint of a skeptic himself. I feel like I’m having my hand held across a busy thoroughfare. Frankly, I need it.” – Shawn Harris, The Matches

“Snakes are a recurring theme in my life. I can’t seem to get away from them. Not to mention that our bus is filled with rubber snakes, shot glasses with snakes on them, drawings of snakes and various other snake-themed items which festoon the walls. Fans seem to think we love snakes. Can’t blame them I guess.” – Ryland Blackinton, Cobra Starship and Ivy League

“I can’t help but feel like his early attitude to approach as a skeptic is little more than a ploy to get the reader, who will undoubtedly be skeptical, to identify with him. To say that at the beginning of his quest he was skeptical of the notion that TAKING HALLUCINOGENIC PLANTS TEACHES PEOPLE THE SECRETS OF MICROBIOLOGY is like saying he was skeptical when his nephew received an invitation to Michael Jackson’s Neverland. I’m not sure it is possible NOT to be skeptical of such a premise.” – Dan Koch, Sherwood

“When I went to get the book I was aware that I was already being a bit judgmental about the book choice. I must admit that I even had a moment where I regretted saying yes to joining the club. I read fiction mainly and when I do read non-fiction it’s typically NOT of the science/biology nature. While admitting to that though I have to also admit that partly why I don’t read books like this very often is because I want a summary at the end that tells me why we’re here, how we’re here, what happens when we leave here, where here is, etc. I don’t know if I just have a low comprehension level but I didn’t feel like this gave me any conclusions it just created a lot of dialogue internally and externally in my life about what the hell DNA really is, why we don’t know more about it and how I can get my hands on ayahuasca. (for educational purposes only of course).” – Tegan Quin, Tegan & Sara

“I think the most interesting thing about the book is when he talks about how the Shaman, out of the millions of plants in the rainforest, were able to pick the right combinations and actually heal the ill. But he never really explores that… Maybe I missed something. Why does the author even bother with giving us a hint of back story: My wife and kids went on a vacation so it gave me time to go to the library… And??? So What?? We never hear anything about them- they don’t matter to the story, so WHAT? I don’t know- it read like a text book to me.” – Isaac Lekach, Acute

“I love a good read on drugs and their inspiring jousts at creation and evolution. I will say that I am very pleased at how hallucinogens have enlightened MY life, opening doors in my mind that have led to views and creations that I would feel square and dull without… which brings up a good question: How many of you here, without shame or judgment, have tried hallucinogens? There are so many unanswered things in life when it comes to creation and consciousness. I hope we never figure out the truth. I love the art that gets created in the midst of interpretation and confusion.” – Drew Roulette, Dredg

“While I was reading the Cosmic Serpent, I was so excited by the possibility that people could be learning about the secrets of the world through hallucinogens. Now, I’m not saying I’m completely there with Narby, but I’d like it to be true, and think it could be. I especially am fascinated by the speculation that plants have a chemical language that we could understand. What better thing could a 300 year old Amazonian plant with lineage tracing back to the beginnings of life impart to you than the fact that you are merely a human? I know a whole mess of people that I would like to see humbled by an old plant… I also really enjoyed all the personal narrative moments- with this sort of book I always find myself getting really curious about the author’s life. I agree that he may not be at the top of the imagery and sensory description game, but the process that one goes through to get to any end- be it scientific or artistic or whatever- is really important to me in considering how I feel.” – Dave Smallen, Street to Nowhere

“Has anyone read ‘The Tao of Physics’? In it, Fritjof Capra writes, ‘Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both.’ I feel that this sentence epitomizes what I gathered from this month’s book- that both proven medicine and spiritual (not necessarily religious) realizations are necessary for the well-being of the body and soul. Wouldn’t it be spectacular to enter the magical world of shamanism?? To listen to spirits, to live by dream interpretations, astral projection, to even control the weather if one feels so powerful. Where storytelling, song, and dance are integral parts of worship and everyday life, where death leads to rebirth, where plants lead to visions and to life direction. Can we go on a book club field trip to the Amazon?” – Greta Salpeter, the Hush Sound

Next month’s selection:
Wanna read the next book along with the SPIN.com book club? Pick up Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (BUY FROM AMAZON), selected by Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara, and then check back here next month to see what the musicians thought and voice your own opinions!

Tags: Music News