by Regina Meredith
Executive Producer And Host Of The
Broadband Learning Channel
FOUR CORNERS MAGAZINE
from FourCornerMagazine Website
Graham Hancock is an explorer and author of the international
bestsellers The Sign and The Seal,
Fingerprints of the Gods and
Heaven's Mirror. His books have sold more than five million
copies worldwide and have been translated into 27 languages.
public lectures and TV appearances, including the three-hour series
Quest for The Lost Civilization, have put his ideas before audiences
of tens of millions.
Graham Hancock is an
unconventional thinker who raises legitimate questions about
humanity's history and prehistory and offers an increasingly popular
challenge to the entrenched views of orthodox scholars.
This interview is a joint venture between Four Corners Magazine
and The Broadband Learning Channel. We caught up with Graham
and his beautiful wife Santha at the C-Pak 2005 Conference here in
Sedona in November. He spoke about the compelling ideas and research
included in his new book entitled:
The Supernatural: Meetings
with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind.
below the complete video interview of this article:
Graham Hancock - Mysteries of the Spirit World
January 24, 2011
Regina Meredith: Let’s start in the jungles of the Amazon
where you began exploring the subject of ‘essence-expanded
consciousness’ through the vine of souls, or ayahuasca.
Graham Hancock: The reason
that I began to study this substance was because I wanted to
investigate a mystery in human history. It is very clear from
the evidence that the art of the painted caves of Paleolithic
Europe (33,000 BC) and the art of the Sand Bushman in Africa
(25,000 BC) appear to be the art of altered states of
These artists put themselves into altered states, either by
using plant hallucinogens, or with other techniques like
prolonged rhythmic dancing, at which point, they then painted
the visions of what they experienced.
Now as a writer, I have always believed that when I explore a
subject, I must explore it personally. I must put myself into
that story. And for that reason, I felt that if I was going to
write about the role of altered states of consciousness in human
history, I had to experience those states for myself.
It so happens that there is a very ancient shamanic culture in
the Amazon, which goes back about 10,000 years. They make a
beverage called “ayahuasca”. It is in fact a mixture of two
plants, one of them is a vine and the other is a leaf that
contains the potent hallucinogen DMT. When mixed together, they
produce extraordinary effects. I went to the Amazon to drink it
with a shaman.
I spent five weeks of in-depth
research. Ayahuasca experiences are potent and very physical
demanding so it is not something that you want to do every day.
I spread it into eleven sessions. It makes you very ill when you
drink it, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea.
It tastes like a ground up frog!
RM: What was your original inspiration to explore this
kind of consciousness?
GH: The original inspiration, in my case, was the
intention to explore the mystery of human origins. Most of the
story is really boring. Our ancestors, even as their form
changed to a modern form, behaved for millions of years in a
very dull way. There was no creativity and no symbolism to
evidence a spiritual life.
They were really just tool-using
Even though they looked like us, which happened about 200,000
years ago, with full anatomical modernity, and the human brain
the same size and structure as it is today, behavior still did
not change. Still no creativity.
Then 40,000 years ago, it seems
like a light was ‘turned on’ all around the world. The behavior
that we recognize as ‘human’ was introduced all at once. What is
key to this change?
What signaled this change was the birth of the first great art
of the world. There had never been art before. Suddenly, in
upper Paleolithic Europe about 35,000 years ago, you get the
most extraordinary art being painted, and you get this all
around the world. It is really as though a light had been
switched on in the human mind. The brain was there, but had not
been used until then.
Something happened that led to it
being used and I believe that the evidence is compelling that
our ancestors discovered altered states of consciousness. They
may have come across hallucinogenic plants by chance; they may
have thought they were food items, and then when consumed, it
brought about a radical transformation in the way that they
looked at the world. It changed everything about being human.
This I felt was the crucial and vital ‘before-and-after moment”
in the human story.
It is connected to altered states of
consciousness, and that is why I had to investigate this subject
in this way.
RM: How do you explain the cross-cultural similarities in
art with people who theoretically had no communication with one
GH: This is one of the great mysteries, and one that I
found myself confronting most closely in this research. Here is
the bazaar thing; in experiences our scientists define as
non-real or hallucinations, people all around the world
universally report the same things. That is, the experience of
passing through to another realm.
This is a realm that is convincingly real, seamlessly real,
inhabited by intelligent beings who want to communicate with
you. And these beings often take the form of half- animal, half-
human hybrids. Overlaid with the perception of these beings, are
geometrical patterns, grids, and zigzags, wavy lines that
appear. And this is universal. It is found with all people, in
all different cultures, and in all different times in history.
One possible explanation offered by shamans from around the
world is that that other realm is real. That is why people see
the same things because they are going to the same places. They
are projecting their consciousness into the same places. This is
the shamans’ view of the universe and what is real is
significantly different from the beliefs of western science.
Western science believes that if you cannot weigh something,
measure it and count it, then, it simple doesn’t exist and is an
illusion. Shamans review things quite differently. They believe
that whether we like it or not, we are tied up with the
If we wish to deal with problems in this
physical world then we cannot ignore that spiritual realm.
So rather then sticking their heads
in the sand and pretending that it doesn't exist, shamans
attempt become masters of that realm. They develop techniques
for altering their consciousness at will. The most common method
is by the use of hallucinogenic plants.
They enter the other realm and
master it through communication; negotiate with the spirits
there; and bring back useful information to this world,
particularly to do with healing.
RM: Are these inspirations the source of religion?
GH: If you go back to the source of any of the great
religions, you are going to find shamanic experiences. I don't
want to offend christians, but St. Paul’s Damascus road
experience, was very much a classic shamanic experience, with
the light and state of consciousness, which later translated to
Christ is a powerfully shamanic figure. Most shamans around the
world today believe that they may have a mother or father in the
spiritual realm. Of course, Christ is the same kind of figure.
He is partly divine, partly human, part spirit, and part man. At
the source and origin of every religion is a profound experience
that an individual or group has had in an altered state of
Then what happens is that the
bureaucratic structures of humanity begin to impose themselves
on that original experience, and within a few generations, the
religion has moved away from the direct connection with the
spiritual realm. It then substitutes a class of priests between
the spirit world and us.
These priests are entirely motivated
by this world’s concerns, and religion becomes an instrument of
material oppression, control, and corrupted by the political
establishment, when at the heart of the religion is a direct
experience of another world. The direct experiences are
relegated to ‘myth’.
In fact, you will find that many religions as they develop, turn
against those who experience altered states of consciousness.
Many religions are opposed to altered states of consciousness,
even though their own religious validity derived from them. This
is a normal process. This is what human beings do. Human beings
are power animals, and at any point can be corrupted to the
power interests of a particular group.
That is what has happened with
RM: Are there cross-cultural commonalties with
GH: Yes, commonalties, as well as some differences. This
suggest to me that there are multiple realms out there, and
perhaps, different substances put us onto the right wave-length
for different realms. In every case, it is a convincing
encounter with different levels of reality. This encounter takes
The ayahuasca experience was for me
rather like traveling for the first time to another country, a
wonderful country, filled with incredible sights and sounds.
There were beings of great wisdom and intelligence that wished
to communicate with me.
But first of all, I had to learn the
rules of that realm.
RM: What were these new rules?
GH: First of all, you have to deal with the physical
consequences of the ayahuasca state. Sometimes the physical
consequences come back 3 or 4 times during a session, so it is a
constant interruption. But at the same time, the visions always
return too. All together, across the eleven sessions that I did
in the Amazon, I was beginning to get genuine communications.
Information was coming to me. It is not that these beings speak
in human voices, the communication is telepathic. I had to
overcome my fears, my preconceptions, and my own ideas of what
was going on, in order to listen to and understand what was
Interestingly, part of my experience was an inward journey. I
found myself confronted with many things that I had done in my
life, going right back to my childhood. The purpose of that
‘life review’ was to give me a vision of myself in very
unflattering terms. I couldn’t hide from it.
I realized that you could not go back and change the past, but
that I didn’t have to be like that in the future. I did find it
a profound teaching experience in that respect. Not only was it
at that level of personal development, but of also at a broader
There was an enormous amount of
extremely valid and valuable information that was beamed at me
from this other world. I need to do more work to get clear about
what was being said. That is why I am going back to Brazil next
year and spend a couple of weeks working with shamans and
drinking ayahuasca, because I want to explore that other country
more carefully, over and extended period of time.
I have spent many years investigating the ancient Egyptians and
Maya. Now I have come to understand that their entire approach
to religions, and spirituality, and the mystery to what it is to
be alive, was mediated through altered states of consciousness.
Both of these cultures used altered states to explore the realms
beyond. I do believe that there are realms beyond. The shamans
are right, we must not cut ourselves off from these worlds, we
must know about them.
It is vitally important for us to
know about them.
I think that it played a huge role in the success of the
Egyptians civilization. The ancient Egyptians devoted their
minds for 3,000 years to exploring life after death. The
Egyptians had an answer to that. It was that there is a journey
that we must make after death and that in that journey we must
confront the consequences of the lives that we have lived. It is
possible that these experiences
that we could undergo (in altered states), may be a vital prep
for what happens to us beyond death. We might be able to
(better) orient ourselves for that transition.
I do feel strongly that we need to take our consciousness back
into our own hands. On the input side, western civilization has
taken control through television; the consumerist ethic is being
beamed at us 24/7.
And on the second front, western civilization
has demonized and criminalized all experiences involving altered
states of consciousness, including the substances.
There is clearly a war of a
consciousness that is going on.
Our society has an investment in
limiting our exploration of altered states of consciousness.
Perhaps there is a deep fear that if we do explore these altered
states; we will not accept the power structure and the fairy
tale delusion of material wealth.
Consider the predicament of billions
of highly intelligent people who are lulled into a state of
sleep by this consciousness bomb of television, and those who
are not allowed to explore the mysteries of their own
consciousness, using the methods of the shamans.
If we do follow (the ancient footprints), we are considered to be
criminals and are stigmatized by society and put in prison.
This is a reversion to the world of the
Spanish Inquisition, If as an individual I am not sovereign over my
own consciousness, if I cannot decide what to do with my
consciousness which is the heart of my being, then I am not free.
And I need not talk about freedom, or living in a free society, or
such issues as democracy, if my society will not allow me to explore
my own consciousness.
If in an altered state of consciousness my behavior is disruptive in
a public arena, then that behavior should rightly be controlled by
But the personal and private exploration
of our consciousness is our business and not the business of the
Meetings With The Ancient Teachers Of Mankind
by Graham Hancock
My intention at the outset was to write a book exploring the mystery
of human origins.
There are many gaps in the fossil record
between about 7 million years ago (the date of our supposed last
common ancestor with chimpanzees) and the emergence of the first
civilizations recognized by historians around 5000 years ago.
My thought was that if I probed these
gaps diligently enough something might emerge – some insight, some
scrap of previously neglected information – that might shed light on
the great puzzles of the human predicament. Why, alone amongst
animal species, have we developed culture and religion, beliefs in
life after death, beliefs in non-physical beings such as spirits,
demons and angels, elaborate mythologies, the ability to create and
to appreciate art, the ability to use and manipulate symbols,
consciousness of ourselves and of our place in the scheme of things?
Did these abstract, even “spiritual”,
qualities develop slowly, over millions of years, or were they
switched on suddenly, like lights in a darkened room?
To cut a long story short, what I discovered is that during most of
the first 7 million years of human evolution there is no evidence at
all for the existence of symbolic abilities amongst our ancestors.
No matter how intensively we probe what
is known about the fossil record, or speculate about what is not yet
known about it, all that we see evidence for throughout this period
is a dull and stultifying copying and recopying of essentially the
same patterns of behavior and essentially the same “kits” of crude
stone tools, without change or innovation, for periods of hundreds
of thousands, even millions of years.
When a change is introduced (in tool
shape for example) it then sets a new standard to be copied and
recopied without innovation for a further immense period until the
next change is finally adopted. In the process, glacially slow, we
also see the gradual development of human anatomy in the direction
of the modern form: the brain-pan enlarges, brow ridges reduce in
size, overall anatomy becomes more gracile – and so on and so forth.
By 196,000 years ago, and on some accounts considerably earlier,
humans had achieved “full anatomical modernity”. This means that
they were in every way physically indistinguishable from the people
of today and, crucially, that they possessed the same large, complex
brains as we do. The most striking mystery, however, is that their
behavior continued to lag behind their acquisition of modern
neurology and appearance.
They showed no sign of possessing a
culture, or supernatural beliefs, or self-consciousness, or any
interest in symbols. Indeed there was nothing about them that we
could instantly identify with “us”.
Dr Frank Brown, whose discovery
of 196,000-year-old anatomically-modern human skeletons in Ethiopia
was published in Nature on 17 February 2005, points out that they
are 35,000 years older than the previous “oldest” modern human
remains known to archaeologists:
“This is significant because the
cultural aspects of humanity in most cases appear much later in
the record, which would mean 150,000 years of Homo sapiens
without cultural stuff…”
Brown’s colleague, John Fleagle
of Stony Brook University in New York State, also comments on
the same problem:
“There is a huge debate regarding
the first appearance of modern aspects of behavior… As modern
human anatomy is documented at earlier and earlier sites, it
becomes evident that there was a great time gap between the
appearance of the modern skeleton and ‘modern behavior’.”
For Ian Tattershall of the
American Museum of Natural History the problem posed by this gap
– and what happened to our ancestors during it – is “the question
of questions in palaeoanthropology”.
His colleague Professor David
Lewis-Williams of the Rock Art Research Institute at South
Africa’s Witwatersrand University describes the same problem as
“the greatest riddle of archaeology – how we became human and in
the process began to make art and to practice what we call
I quickly realized that this was the mystery, and the period, I
wanted to investigate. Not that endless, unimaginative cultural
desert from 7 million years ago down to just 40,000 years ago when
our ancestors hobbled slowly through their long and boring
apprenticeship, but the period of brilliant and burning symbolic
light that followed soon afterwards when the first of the great cave
art of southwest Europe appeared – already perfect and fully formed
– between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago.
A most remarkable theory exists to explain the special
characteristics of these amazing and haunting early works of art,
and to explain why identical characteristics are also found in
prehistoric art from many other parts of the world and in art
produced by the shamans of surviving tribal cultures today.
The theory was originally elaborated by
Professor David Lewis-Williams, and is now supported by a
majority of archaeologists and anthropologists. In brief, it
proposes that the reason for the similarities linking all these
different systems of art, produced by different, unrelated cultures
at different and widely-separated periods of history, is that in
every case the shaman-artists responsible for them had previously
experienced altered states of consciousness in which they had seen
vivid hallucinations, and in every case their endeavor in making the
art was to memorialize on the walls of rock shelters and caves the
ephemeral images that they had seen in their visions.
According to this theory the different
bodies of art have so many similarities because we all share the
same neurology, and thus share many of the same experiences and
visions in altered states of consciousness.
There are lots of ways of inducing the necessary altered state.
The bushmen of South Africa get there
through night-long rhythmic dancing and drumming, the Tukano Indians
of the Amazon do it through consuming the hallucinogenic beverage
Ayahuasca. In prehistoric Europe I present evidence that the
requisite altered states may have been reached through the
Psilocybe semilanceata – the popular little
brown “magic mushroom” that is still used throughout the world to
induce hallucinations today.
In Central America the Maya and their
predecessors used other psilocybe species (P. Mexicana and P.
Cubensis) to induce the same effects.
I took LSD once in my twenties, at the Windsor Free Festival in
1974, and had a fantastic, exciting, energizing 12-hour trip in a
parallel reality. When my normal, everyday consciousness returned –
and it did so quite abruptly, like a door slamming – I felt grateful
for such a wonderful experience but so much in awe of its power that
I vowed never to do it again.
Suppose things had gone the other way?
Suppose instead of an exciting medieval Otherworld through which I
had been allowed to travel like a knight-errant, I had been ushered
into some hell-realm for 12 hours? How would I have handled that?
Would I have handled it at all?
Now, in my 50’s I had to confront the psychic challenges of major
hallucinogens again. In order to research my subject properly, and
to know what I was talking about when I spoke of altered states of
consciousness, I drank Ayahuasaca with shamans in the Amazon and
self-experimented with DMT, psilocybin and the African visionary
drug known as
Iboga – “the plant that enables men to see the dead.”
The extraordinary experiences I went through convinced me that David
Lewis-Williams is right and that visionary states of this sort,
brought on by the accidental discovery of plant hallucinogens, did
indeed provide the inspiration for ancient cave and rock art
traditions all around the world.
Lewis-Williams is also right to insist
that it is to the proper examination of such altered states of
consciousness that we should turn if we wish to discover the source
of the first religious ideas ever entertained by our ancestors.
It was precisely at this point, however, that I began to part
company with Lewis-Williams and his theory. Whatever the cave
artists saw in their trances, and no matter how devoutly they may
have believed that what they were seeing was real, the South African
professor is adamant that the entire inspiration for 25,000 years of
Upper Palaeolithic cave paintings reduces to nothing more than the
fevered illusions of disturbed brain-chemistry – i.e. to
hallucinations. In his scientific universe there is simply no room,
or need, for the supernatural, no space for any kind of Otherworld,
and no possibility that intelligent non-physical entities could
I found I couldn’t leave the matter there, with the inspiration for
cave art and the birth of religion neatly accounted for by disturbed
brain-chemistry, with the earliest spiritual insights of mankind
rendered down to mere epiphenomena of strictly biological processes,
with the sublime thus efficiently reduced to the ridiculous.
To have established the role of
hallucinations as the inspiration for cave art is one thing – and
David Lewis-Williams, in my opinion, has successfully done that. But
to understand what hallucinations really are, and what part they
play in the overall spectrum of human experience and behavior, is
another thing altogether, and neither Lewis-Williams nor any other
scientist can yet claim to possess such knowledge, or to be anywhere
near acquiring it.
Gifted and experienced shamans the world
over really do know more – much more – than they do. So if we were
smart we would listen to what the shamans have to say about the true
character and complexity of reality instead of basking mindlessly in
the overweening one-dimensional arrogance of the Western
Because I had been shaken to the core by my experiences with
Ayahuasca and Iboga I decided to take my investigation further and
to explore the extraordinary possibility that science is unwilling
even to consider and that David Lewis-Williams dismisses out of
This is the possibility that the
Amazonian and African hallucinogens had obliged me to confront
face-to-face and that shamans contend with on a daily basis – the
possibility that the spirit world and its inhabitants are real, that
supernatural powers and non-physical beings do exist, and that human
consciousness may, under certain special circumstances, be liberated
from the body and enabled to interact with and perhaps even learn
from these “spirits”.
Did our ancestors experience
their great evolutionary leap forward of the last 40,000
years not just because of the beneficial social and
organizational by-products of shamanism but because they
were literally helped, taught, prompted and inspired by
Could the “supernaturals” first
depicted in the painted caves and rock shelters – and still
accessible to us today in altered states of consciousness –
be the ancient teachers of mankind?
Could it be they who first
ushered us into the full birthright of our humanity?
And could it be that human
evolution is not just the “blind”, “meaningless”, “natural”
process that Darwin identified, but something else, more
purposive and intelligent, that we have barely even begun to
Why did Nobel Prize-winner
Francis Crick keep concealed until his death the amazing
circumstances under which he first “saw” the double-helix
structure of DNA?
And why did he become convinced
that the DNA molecule did not evolve naturally upon this
planet but was sent here in bacteria by an alien
Why does the 97 per cent of DNA
that scientists do not understand – so-called “junk DNA” –
contain chemical “sequences” arranged in patterns and
frequencies that are otherwise only found in the deep coding
of all human languages?
Why do Western lab volunteers,
placed experimentally under the influence of hallucinogens
such as DMT, psilocybin, mescaline and LSD, report visionary
encounters with non-physical “beings” in the form of
animal-human hybrids identical to those described by
Amazonian shamans and to those painted by our ancestors in
the prehistoric caves?
What is the significance of the
astonishing similarities between the entities known as
“aliens”, ET’s” or “greys” in modern popular culture, the
entities known as “fairies”, “elves” and “goblins” in the
Middle Ages, and the entities that shamans in surviving
tribal cultures know as “ghosts”, “gods” and “spirits”? Why
are such figures also depicted in prehistoric art as far
afield as Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia?
Such questions, I know, sound
preposterous and pointless to anyone committed to “objective”
science and the Western logical positivist tradition.
The more closely I pursued them,
however, the more convinced I became that they point towards matters
of extraordinary substance, and that science has done us an immense
disfavor by its policy of ridiculing and discouraging all rational
inquiry in this area.