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Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Graham Hancock
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Kurzbeschreibung

5. Oktober 2006

"Supernatural: of or relating to things that cannot be explained according to natural laws."

Less than 50,000 years ago mankind had no art, no religion, no sophisticated symbolism, no innovative thinking. Then, in a dramatic and electrifying change, described by scientists as "the greatest riddle in human history", all the skills and qualities that we value most highly in ourselves appeared already fully formed, as though bestowed on us by hidden powers.

In Supernatural Graham Hancock sets out to investigate this mysterious "before-and-after moment" and to discover the truth about the influences that gave birth to the modern human mind.

His quest takes him on a journey of adventure and detection from the stunningly beautiful painted caves of prehistoric France, Spain and Italy to remote rock shelters in the mountains of South Africa where he finds a treasure trove of extraordinary Stone Age art.

He uncovers clues that lead him to travel to the depths of the Amazon rainforest to drink the powerful plant hallucinogen Ayahuasca with Indian shamans, whose paintings contain images of "supernatural beings" identical to the animal-human hybrids depicted in prehistoric caves and rock shelters. And hallucinogens such as mescaline, also produce visionary encounters with exactly the same beings. Scientists at the cutting edge of consciousness research have begun to consider the possibility that such hallucinations may be real perceptions of other "dimensions".

Could the "supernaturals" first depicted in the painted caves and rock shelters be the ancient teachers of mankind? Could it be that human evolution is not just the "blind", "meaningless" process that Darwin identified, but something else, more purposive and intelligent, that we have barely even begun to understand?


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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 864 Seiten
  • Verlag: Arrow; Auflage: New Ed (5. Oktober 2006)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0099474158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099474159
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 17,5 x 10,9 x 5,8 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 13.251 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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Produktbeschreibungen

Pressestimmen

"Hancock's most important book . . . Quite stunning" (Independent on Sunday)

"Hancock's work is a welcome exploration and celebration of the mystery inside our skulls" (The Guardian)

"Hancock is intelligent and articulate and his writing is as expert as you would expect from an esteemed international correspondent" (The Scotsman)

Werbetext

FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS meets Carlos Castaneda in the most exciting development in alternative history for over a decade.

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In diesem Buch (Mehr dazu)
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24 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ein Buch wie eine Droge 26. Februar 2007
Format:Taschenbuch
Graham Hancock ist durch seine bereits ins Deutsche übersetzten Bücher auch hierzulande ein bekannter Autor im Bereich alternativer Geschichtsforschung. Sein neuestes Buch „Supernatural“ ist gerade auf Englisch erschienen. Der Einstieg war nicht gerade leicht, schon allein wegen des furchterregenden Umfangs seines neuen Werks. Außerdem wurde mir erst viel später klar, was die Schilderung seiner Drogenerfahrung mit einer Pflanze, die „dem Menschen erlaubt, die Toten zu sehen“, mit meinem viel größeren Interesse zu tun haben könnte, herauszufinden, was zum Teufel auf dieser Welt eigentlich los ist. So begann ich also eher milde interessiert von schamanischen Portalen und Heilungen durch Geistwesen zu lesen, die der Autor dem Leser gleich auf den ersten Seiten präsentiert. Danach kommt der erste Themenblock: Es geht um archäologische Funde von Höhlenmalereien in aller Welt, und ich erfahre, dass lange, lange Zeit das größte Rätsel der Archäologie darin bestand, die seltsamen Zeichnungen zu interpretieren, die rund um den Globus die frühesten Hinweise auf die aufkommende Kultur der Menschen darstellen. Dass die dort gefundenen Bilder menschlicher Gestalten und auch von Tieren oftmals nicht wirklich akkurate Abbildungen der uns bekannten Formen darstellen, war lange Zeit schwer erklärbar. Konnten die Höhlenmenschen noch nicht so gut malen? Nein, nein. Graham Hancock belegt durch eine beeindruckende Fülle graphischer Beispiele: An künstlerischer Begabung fehlte es keineswegs. Und wenn man die Ähnlichkeit der Funde weltweit bedenkt, dann kann man eigentlich nur von Vorsatz sprechen. Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Magisterial work and riveting read 4. Januar 2007
Format:Taschenbuch
This fascinating book by alternative historian Graham Hancock investigates the origins of consciousness with reference to the work of David Lewis-Williams and his theory of the neuropsychological origins of cave art. It also goes further in proposing that those worlds and entities encountered in shamanic visions are not mere hallucinations but very real and that altered states are the means to gain entry to them.

Part One: The Visions, includes the author's experiences with the African hallucinogenic plant Iboga, looks at the cave of Pech Merle and then examines the theory of David Lewis-Williams. It also includes a section on Hancock's use of the South American plant ayahuasca.

Part Two explores the cave art of Upper Paleolithic Europe, with a closer look at the half-human half-animal representations that are so widespread. These "therianthropic" designs also occur in the rock art of Southern Africa and elsewhere. Hancock examines recurring themes in this ancient art, like that of the Wounded Man. He also discusses other aspects of this art, like the dots, starbursts, nets, ladders and windowpane-like geometrical figures. He closely examines the similarities and the differences between the art of ancient Europe and that of Africa. For example, the European art is found in dark subterranean caves while in Africa it is most often found in open rock shelters.

Chapter Six looks at the history of the academic study of rock art and concludes that it led nowhere until the theory of Lewis-Williams came along. Hancock demolishes the criticisms leveled at the work of Lewis-Williams and exposes the smear campaign waged against the South African academic. Among other interesting topics, he considers the 19th century notebooks of Bleek and Lloyd on the mythology of the San.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Super Buch!!! 27. März 2014
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Eines der interessantesten Bücher die ich je gelesen habe, eine Schatztruhe an Wissen und interessanten Informationen die nur Graham auf eine leicht lesbare und niemals langweilige Weise zu vermitteln vermag!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Super Supernatural 28. Oktober 2006
Von JAMES AGNEW - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Graham Hancock, the author of Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind could never be accused of pussyfooting around the revelations of his research, and he certainly postulates the heck out of the place of consciousness altering agents in the shamanic origins of religion and consciousness itself. It's a brilliant, breakthrough book which comes close to being the unified field theory of, if not all of the supernatural, at least of all encounters between humans and supernatural beings.

Hancock begins with a description of his own visionary experiences with the hallucinogen Ibogaine, which he took, with a logical vigor that escapes most academics, in order to truly gauge its effect, and therefore the validity of his theories. He follows this with a (perhaps too) meticulous examination of the cave paintings that represent the beginnings of human art, concentrating on their bizarre and seemingly inexplicable nature, at once representative and fantastic, a contradiction that the bonehead academics have (naturally) been totally unable to puzzle out in over a hundred years of trying.

But just when I thought the book was going to be one of those tedious Fortean catalogues of weird stuff, Hancock brought forth his first thesis, based on David Lewis-Williams's The Mind in the Cave. Lewis-Williams's idea is simple - that the enigmatic cave paintings were produced by shamans in a trance state and are representations of the shamanic experience. It's an audacious, elegant solution - the psychotropic distortions and patterns match that of drug users and there's no doubt that many shamanistic cultures, such as the prototypical Siberian and the still extant South American, exhibit a heavy use of mushrooms and other hallucinogens to achieve shamanic journeys and transformations. Hancock also examines the rock art of a tribe in South Africa whose paintings were similar to cave art and whose imagery was explicated by the last survivors of that tribe.

This theory seems almost self-evident, so naturally it remains controversial in the academic world. Perhaps as a reaction to the sixties, the academic establishment now rejects all the fruits of dream, drug and trance as hallucination, and tries to efface the very clear fingerprints of sense altering agents in our culture and civilization. It should come as now surprise, then, that several stalwart defenders of the empty status quo have stepped forward to advance their careers by attacking Lewis-Williams theories with various sophistries. Hancock handily refutes them, exposing them as deeply misguided if not purposefully dishonest. It's a deft explanation for the general reader of a difficult theory in the manner of Colin Wilson, but the start of the book is just a stepping stone for Hancock, who moves on to his own conceptual breakthroughs.

The genesis of Hancock's insight, like many of the crucial insights of modernity, came while he was under the influence. During his Ibogaine trip he saw a large headed, bug eyes "alien" figure, and recognized several similar creatures in cave paintings. One of the major techniques of modernity is juxtaposition, and Hancock placed the shamanic model next to contemporary accounts of alien abduction and concluded "Shamanic experiences of spirits and modern experiences of aliens are essentially a single phenomenon." There are startling similarities - transformations, journeys into the sky, ritualistic, invasive body manipulations and encounters with powerful, mystifying, alien entities. But what in heaven's name do these creatures want with us? As I said in Snakes in Caves, the purpose of the whole Alien project may be some kind of vast breeding experiment, and shamans were certainly familiar with intercourse with various interstellar entities and even the production of human/alien hybrids.

Hancock then further links the shamans of the stone age to the abductees of today by brining in theories advanced by Jacques Vallee in his book Passport to Mangonia. Vallee compared the fairy lore of medieval times with UFO data and found similarities there as well, with more abductions to unearthly realms, time distortions, encounters with superhuman "others," and, of course, "reproductive contact." Hancock then draws a single breathtaking, unbroken line of human/supernatural contact from the dawn of humanity to the present, the nature of the contact basically the same, but understood in accordance with the prevailing conceptual world view.

Where do these "others" come from? Parallel universes will be, I believe the overriding theory of the twenty-first century, and it's certainly easy to see, as many have postulated, the often inexplicable aliens emanating from other vibrations rather than other planets, but Hancock introduces an even more audacious theory. Like a lot of archaic/psychedelic thought it originated with the late, great Terence McKenna who, confronted with the prevalence of helix imagery during his trips, postulated that his drug of choice, DMT (an ingredient in many shamanistic substances), makes "information stored in the neural-genetic material available to consciousness." In other words all that "junk" information contained in DNA, which resembles a language and has inexplicably been preserved for millennia, is in fact a message that the superior beings who created it imbedded in advance of the time we would be able to understand it (kind of like the monoliths in 2001). Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA (who was, by the way, under the influence of LSD when he first visualized the double helix shape of DNA - something they sure didn't tell us in high school when we reverently studied The Double Helix) even came to believe that DNA itself was the result of an alien seeding project.

Hancock presents these ideas as more speculative than the rest of the book, as indeed they are, and in his final chapter gives a quick overview of the shamanic origin of all religions and the essentially psychedelic nature of shamanism, tracing the use of hallucinogens in such landmarks of ancient spirituality as the mysteries of Eleuis and the Soma of the Vedas.

All in all, it's an impressive, enthralling book which gains force as it continues, firmly grounded in scholarship, yet able to utilize the fruits of personal experience and experimentation. Hancock presents a unified theory for almost every encounter between humans and supernatural beings (although, in the "spirit" of the season I must say that, despite the fact that departed ancestors play a role, Hancock does not grapple with the localized phenomena of ghosts). Supernatural is a brilliant work, the capstone of Hancock's career, one that has (of course) been ignored by mainstream media and science, despite being much more interesting and valuable than timid but more ballyhooed works like William J. Broad's The Oracle.

Hancock is no freewheelin' hippy, but a rather rigorous enquiring mind of the old English school, but he's not afraid to go where Wisdom beckons, and the book's final scene shows him recumbent in the midst of nature, about to gobble a handful of magic mushrooms, the results of the journey to be recorded, I can only hope, in his next volume.
244 von 250 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Investigative Reporting on the Archeology Beat: Toward a New Understanding of the Nature of Man 19. September 2006
Von J. Chasin - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
This is a book that casts an extremely broad intellectual net, but Hancock quite ably holds it all together and offers some compelling and though-provoking insights into the nature of spirituality, cognitive evolution of mankind, and, yes, the supernatural.

Most of Hancock's work is in a field I'd call archeological investigative journalism-- perhaps an arcane field, but he is the best there is at it. In Sign and the Seal he went looking for the Ark of the Covenant (not unlike Indiana Jones); in Fingerprints of the Gods he went looking for Atlantis.

Here, he begins by investigating cave paintings, the earliest known artwork left to us by early man. Beings very much like modern day humans had lived for tens of thousands of years, but suddenly, about 25,000 years ago, they began making cave paintings. Hancock asks the two obvious questions: WHY did they suddenly start painting, and WHAT were they depicting?

In brief, Hancock makes a compelling case that the trigger of the act of cave painting was the experiencing of shamanic visions-- essentially the first, core, religious experience-- resulting from the ingestion of hallucinogenic herbs and plants. And too, he makes a compelling case that the content of these early paintings is quite simply the "visions" one sees in such an altered state. He demonstrates that the same plants and psychoactive substances have generated a remarkably consistent set of imagistic responses in humans across time and culture and setting, and shows how the icons and symbols of cave paintings are indeed replications and renderings of these visions (for instance, the part-man, part-animal creatures that dominate cave paintings and indeed Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Native American mythology.)

From there, Hancock traces the accounts through the ages of people who have claimed encounters with supposedly mythical creatures such as little green fairies, up through aliens and UFOs, and again notes the remarkable similarity across time and setting in the accounts. Indeed he shows how this sort of collective human experience with the "other world" has slowly evolved over time, and that the construct (e.g., aliens after World War II) that humans apply to the other-worldly visitors is culturally driven, but that the broader experience itself transcends culture. He also loops in the empirical work modern scientists have done, giving human subjects a high dosage of a psychoactive drug in lab settings and documenting their descriptions of experiences.

Hancock goes on to note that, while these drugs reliably trigger a core set of hallucinations in human subjects, some small percentage of people-- tagged by one study as 2%-- have these experiences without the benefit of the drugs. These are the people who, in recent times, have stories of being abducted by UFOs, and who in medieval times were abducted by fairies.

Of course, Hancock does not point to this as proof that aliens have been abducting humans. Rather, he demonstrates that the ability and tendency to experience of these visions, waking dreams, hallucinations, is a part of our DNA, part of what makes us human. If this is true, it suggests that humans are different from other species in part because we have a genetic predisposition to commune with what can only be described as the "supernatural."

Note that you do not have to believe in the existence of some parallel nether realm in order to buy into the premise of this book. All you have to believe is the idea that it is possible to empirically observe and describe and categorize the nature of hallucinations people have been having through the ages, and in laboratory settings.

What most interested me about this book-- besides the way Hancock hits so many topics of interest to me and ties them together into new knowledge-- is that if you read without prejudice, you will see how science and the supernatural re-mingle in Hancock's world view. He looks at the same set of phenomena in three ways-- subjectively (as one who has experimented with psychoactive substances like Ayuhuasca); spiritually (the construct of the religious observer); and scientifically (the construct of the empiricist.) Each construct uses different languages, but each describes, accommodates, accepts, "knows" the same set of phenomena. The implication is that science and religion are not so much diametrically opposed, as they are akin to the 5 blind men describing the elephant. Each knows there's an elephant in the room. It is only in the description, not the actual perception, that differences emerge.
122 von 126 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Magisterial work and riveting read 4. Januar 2007
Von Pieter Uys - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
This fascinating book by alternative historian Graham Hancock investigates the origins of consciousness with reference to the work of David Lewis-Williams and his theory of the neuropsychological origins of cave art. It also goes further in proposing that those worlds and entities encountered in shamanic visions are not mere hallucinations but very real and that altered states are the means to gain entry to them.

Part One: The Visions, includes the author's experiences with the African hallucinogenic plant Iboga, looks at the cave of Pech Merle and then examines the theory of David Lewis-Williams. It also includes a section on Hancock's use of the South American plant ayahuasca.

Part Two explores the cave art of Upper Paleolithic Europe, with a closer look at the half-human half-animal representations that are so widespread. These "therianthropic" designs also occur in the rock art of Southern Africa and elsewhere. Hancock examines recurring themes in this ancient art, like that of the Wounded Man. He also discusses other aspects of this art, like the dots, starbursts, nets, ladders and windowpane-like geometrical figures. He closely examines the similarities and the differences between the art of ancient Europe and that of Africa. For example, the European art is found in dark subterranean caves while in Africa it is most often found in open rock shelters.

Chapter Six looks at the history of the academic study of rock art and concludes that it led nowhere until the theory of Lewis-Williams came along. Hancock demolishes the criticisms leveled at the work of Lewis-Williams and exposes the smear campaign waged against the South African academic. Among other interesting topics, he considers the 19th century notebooks of Bleek and Lloyd on the mythology of the San. These valuable documents provide clues to the religion of the San and the trance or altered state experience.

Part Three: The Beings, starts with discussions of the experiences and work of William James, Aldous Huxley, Albert Hoffman and Rick Strassman. It also looks at the UFO abduction experience and compares it with the shamanic exploration of other-worlds, with supernatural myths and folkloric traditions like that of fairies and elves. There really are fascinating correspondences between fairy lore, the UFO abduction experience and certain hallucinatory states.

Part Four: The Codes, looks at the structural similarities and connections and the common themes like therianthropic transformations, small robot-like humanoids, the breeding of hybrid infants, the idea of the Wounded Healer, etc. Hancock is convinced that the mind is a receiver and not simply a generator of consciousness. In this section he relates his impressions after smoking DMT, and then goes into a deeper exploration of the work of Dr Rick Strassman who is famous for his work with this substance. The passages on DNA are particularly gripping, especially the idea that our DNA might contain specific information on our origins and future. Hancock also discusses the work of other researchers like Jeremy Narby, Terrence McKenna, Benny Shanon and Francis Crick, the discoverer of DNA.

Part Five: The Religions, examines the belief in supernatural entities in all the world's major religions. He points out how "Father Christmas" and St Sebastian are ancient shamanic figures, the first for his red and white clothes which resemble the colours of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom and the second for being a therianthrope with a dog's head. Dreams and visions are then investigated, including those of Joan of Arc and Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes. Also the vision of Ezekiel, the mysteries of Eleusis and the role of Soma in Vedic religion. Hancock concludes this section with similar themes in the religion and mythology of ancient Egypt and the Maya.

Part Six: The Mysteries, returns to the work of Lewis-Williams and the fact that the ancient cave art is the oldest surviving evidence of the belief in spirit worlds and supernatural beings that exist at the heart of all religions. He disagrees strongly with Lewis-Williams about the reality of these realms and beings. He observes that people have consistently reported the same pattern of experiences from every part of the globe and from all cultures. Hancock believes that these alternative realms are very real and that we may gain access to them via the trance state, whether it is brought about by ingestion of substances, trance dances, fasting or other practices that cause a change in consciousness.

There are many black and white illustrations and paintings throughout the book and a set of colour plates that includes, amongst others, the paintings of Peruvian shaman Pablo Amaringo plus photographs of San rock art from Southern Africa. The three appendices are: Critics and Criticisms of David Lewis-Williams' Neuropsychological Theory of Rock and Cave Art; Psilocybe Semilanceata: a Hallucinogenic Mushroom Native To Europe by Professor Roy Watling; and an illuminating interview with Dr Rick Strassman. The book concludes with bibliographic references arranged by chapter, and an index.

Supernatural deals with so many thought-provoking matters that the interested reader might want more information and/or other perspectives on various aspects of the study. The following books may be helpful: DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, Stone Age Soundtracks by Paul Devereux, Huston Smith's Cleansing The Doors Of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals, William James' Varieties Of Religious Experience, Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness by Abraham, McKenna and Sheldrake, White Rabbit: A Psychedelic Reader by John Miller, Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers by Schultes, Hofmann and Ratsch, Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy by Clark Heinrich, The Cave of Altamira by Pedro Ramos and The Mind In The Cave by David Lewis-Williams.
31 von 31 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Courageous exploration of our shamanic history. 13. November 2006
Von David P. Crews - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
I've followed Graham Hancock's work through the years with great interest and appreciation, even when he has been on a few side trails. History is less easily tested than the "hard" sciences, but Hancock has made a career of gathering together many small bits and pieces of things to reveal the underlying patterns that were not as noticeable before, but now appear strongly and certainly to be true.

Always in pursuit of the presumed lost civilization that gave birth to our own, Hancock has been all over the world and even under the seas in his recent book, Underworld, searching for empirical evidence in ruins of human structures dateable to a time before the commonly accepted genesis dates of civilization. It was quite a twist for me, then, when I learned that he was writing a new book on a totally different angle. In Supernatural, Hancock takes us on an epic journey from the famous pre-historic cave art of Europe and rock art from Africa with its strange menageries of part human-part animal beings, through modern expressions of shamanistic beliefs and techniques, and the use of and research into psychoactive substances that seem to open a doorway into another reality. These things, he maintains, are all connected and should be given the consideration of representing something real rather than being casually dismissed as primitive superstition or "brain fiction" caused by chemical reactions in the molecules of the brain.

This is a philosophy I've been personally exploring for some time, and it is quite a treat to have a researcher with the time, resources, and courage of Hancock, to forge so strongly ahead in a direction I was going. He has locked on to the same literary resources that propelled my own interest - Narby's "Cosmic Serpent", Shanon's epic "Antipodes of the Mind", Strassman's "DMT The Spirit Molecule", etc. Plus, he has now personally experienced the effects of those natural psychoactive plants that have opened a portal for humans for millenia, from magic mushrooms to iboga to ayahuasca. Far from being "pleasure trips", most of these substances are difficult and extremely unpleasant to use. The ritual and sacremental use of them is endured in order to experience the non- ordinary realities that they can reveal. Realities that seem to include non-human entities. Hancock takes us through the centuries with stories of angels, demons, fairies, goblins, and all the "other beings" called by various names through the centuries. Not the least of these are the modern concepts of extra-terrestrial aliens. He shows how these are all expressions of the same phenomenon, from the part-human/animal cave art depictions to the grey aliens of UFO's, and how their interactions with humans over time has seemingly evolved towards some purpose.

The first part of the book dealing with the cave art gets somewhat long and repetitive, but I realize that Hancock is being rather more careful these days to back up what he is saying with the most thorough research job he can achieve in order to deflect as much of the certain academic backlash as possible.

Supernatural is a very important book for those seeking a quantum jump forward into unknown but extremely compelling territory. Its subject matter will certainly cause it to be profoundly ignored or at most crassly denigrated by the orthodox scientific/academic community, but that is the nature of human nature. It takes someone with courage who has no turf to protect to simply go in pursuit of these things with the golden purpose of finding out what is real. That is certainly my goal, having recently returned from a similar journey to Peru to work directly with Ayahuasca. It is a valued resource, as well as a pleasure and a comfort, to have Graham Hancock on that road with me.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen supernatural indeed! 19. Oktober 2006
Von Ashtar Command - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Since I'm a conventional "sceptic" of the pro-establishment variety, reading and reviewing this book was a real challenge. Graham Hancock is a controversial "alternativist" writer based in Britain, but constantly on the move all around the globe (and beyond?). Real Egyptologists, archeologists and historians usually regard him as pseudo-scientific. Indeed, his books are filled with all the stuff we sceptics just LOVE to hate: hyper-diffusionism, pyramidology, the face on Mars and (surprise) the Illuminati. "Supernatural" is Hancock's latest work. In some ways, it's even crazier than his earlier ones. But in some other ways, it's actually better. Yes, my new agey chat buddies will be surprised that I of all people said that...

In this book, Hancock has identified some real scientific problems, in contrast to face-on-the-Mars and other pure pseudo-problems. One such real mystery is why our species, Homo sapiens, lacked a real culture for the first 50,000 or even 100,000 years of its existence. The brains of our species have always been as large as they are today. So why was Homo sapiens on Neandertal level until about 40,000 years ago? Then, suddenly, humans started to paint, and developed a religion. How? Why? What on earth is going on?

Hancock quite rightly points out that many scientists have given up trying to explain these things. For instance, many historians of religion prefer not to speculate about how religion came about. We simply don't know. Hancock, however, believes there is an explanation: cave-paintings and religious beliefs are the result of shamanic experiences induced by hallucinogenic drugs. Apparently, a faction within the anthropological community supports such a theory. Hancock succesfully demolishes the semantic jibberish surrounding the term "shamanism", and also demonstrates that hallucinogenic mushrooms were indeed available to Stone Age Man in the Old World. Hancock's own experimentation with hallucinogenes (vividly described in the book) have lead him to the conclusion that essentialy the same experiences appear again and again, thus explaining the similarities between animist notions from different parts of the world. This, of course, is another mystery: why do people all over the world seem to experience the same hallucinations?

It is at this point that Hancock crosses the barrier and boldly goes where no CSICOP-er have dared to go before or after. He claims that the spirit-beings encountered during shamanic ecstasys are...well, real. Where you go, I cannot follow.

But what about the more down-to-earth theories of "Supernatural"? Can humanity's turn to culture really be explained by the discovery of hallucinogenes? Although the speculation is probably just as good (or bad) as any other, it does raise several new questions. Why didn't our ancestors discover hallucinogenes much earlier? After all, they were available before 40,000 BP. Also, trance states can be induced without drugs, for instance by certain body postures, dancing or meditation. Why didn't the turn to shamanism happen much earlier? We may never know. Personally I suspect that the origins of culture might be connected to language. Perhaps our ancestors lacked sophisticated language abilities before 40,000 BP? A language capable of expressing abstract concepts might have speeded up cultural development. But of course, this too raises new questions. Why did language develop when it did and not earlier? After all, our brains have always been large.

All said and done, Hancock has pinpointed a number of real science mysteries and explained them supernaturally. Fair enough. That, after all, was the whole point of his book. The book is a good read, and might merit 4 or 5 stars for that reason, but the sceptic inside me only gives it 3.
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