British author and historian Graham Hancock is a man with a huge following but not acknowledged by academia. While his famed book, Fingerprints of the Gods, sold 9 million copies and the sequel, Magicians of the Gods, is already a bestseller, Hancock himself remains scoffed at by mainline archaeologists.
His long-standing interest in hallucinogenic drugs – “they are something that society really needs”, he says – has not enhanced his reputation either.
His thought-provoking 2013 TEDx talk on consciousness was famously removed from the TEDx YouTube channel but it is available elsewhere on YouTube and it’s indeed a provocative talk worth watching.
Hancock describes the transformative impact that ayahuasca, a traditional hallucinogenic drink, has had on him and relates how taking the DMT-containing psychedelic unleashes creativity and puts its users in contact with seemingly intelligent entities which communicate telepathically, and most frequently, the spirit of mother ayahuasca, a kind of mother goddess of the planet and a healer.
In his personal encounter with ayahuasca she told him to stop his cannabis habit and showed him the eventual outcome of his actions should he continue. This encounter led Hancock to kick his 24-year habit with many positive results: more productive and creative and feeling lighter as if a heavy burden had been lifted. Cannabis had a negative effect on his behavior towards others and he started to address that as well.
“And this whole transformation – it really has been a personal transformation for me – was made possible by this encounter with death that mother ayahuasca gave me,” says Hancock.
In his talk he mentions that ayahuasca has been used successfully to get people off addictions to hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
His encounter with ayauasca led Hancock to question what death is. Are we just meat and when we die our bodies die and disappear and that’s that? Or is there more?
He explains the difference between the two possibilities succinctly:
“It could be that the brain generates consciousness the way a generator makes electricity, if you hold to that paradigm, then of course you can’t believe in life after death, when the generator’s broken, consciousness is gone. But it’s equally possible that the relationship — and nothing in neuroscience rules it out — that the relationship is more like the relationship of the TV signal to the TV set, and in that case, when the TV set is broken, of course the TV signal continues.”
He goes to ancient Egypt for some inspiration in their transcendent art and their exploration of the mysteries of death through dream states and their use of hallucinogenic plants like the blue water lily.
Also, interestingly the ancient Egyptian “tree of life” has recently been identified as the Acacia nilotica which contains high quantities of DMT, dimethyltryptamine, the same active ingredient that we find in ayahuasca, says Hancock.
But what about our society today and our relationship with visionary states? Hancock says we have declared war on consciousness. We don’t value higher conscious states and prohibit the use of various psychedelic drugs which could help us explore consciousness.
“We hate visionary states in this society. In our society, if we want to insult somebody, we call them a dreamer.
“And we have erected huge apparatuses of armed bureaucracies who will invade our privacy, who will break down our doors, who will arrest us, who will send us to prison — sometimes for years – for possessing even small quantities of psilocybin, or substances like DMT.”
Yet, ironically our society does promote alternative states of consciousness. Cue alcohol, what Hancock calls the most boring of drugs. Not to speak of “the unholy alliance of psychiatrists and big pharma in overprescribing drugs to control so-called syndromes like depression or attention deficit disorder in teenagers.”
Hancock says in modern society we are not free to truly explore our consciousness because authorities prohibit the use of certain psychedelic drugs while we are encouraged to take pharmaceutical drugs that have severe negative effects on our health, not to speak of the unabated and unabashed promotion of alcohol. Even our addiction to coffee is for the stimulating effect of caffeine.
But what all these approved altered states of consciousness have in common is that none of them contradict or conflict with the basic state of consciousness valued by our society, which Hancock calls the alert, problem-solving state of consciousness, which has led humanity to the brink of disaster. Cue the desecration of the Amazon, nuclear proliferation, widespread hunger and ongoing wars.
To get the full message of this fascinating talk, do take the time to listen to Hancock upset the scientific world while giving humanity hope.